‘Stand-in’ Morningside organist retires after 47 years

Charles Napier. Picture: Greg Macvean
Charles Napier. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A TEMPORARY post as the organist at St Peter’s RC Church in Morningside that became a lifetime’s work has finally ended for Charles Napier.

The 80-year-old accepted a request back in 1966 from the acting priest to stand in until a permanent replacement could be found.

Now after a record 47 years in the role, he has decided to give his hands and feet a much-needed rest by stepping down on Tuesday.

The retired Morningside electrical engineer, known as Charlie to his many friends, was born in Gorgie and grew up alongside brothers Ian and Kenneth.

He started playing the piano from the age of six and was a proficient working organist from the age of 17.

Charlie said: “One of my piano teachers happened to be an organist. His name was Alfred B Potter – he was the organist at Old Saint Paul’s on Jeffrey Street.

“I got my first paid job as an organist at Cockenzie Parish Church. I used to cycle down and back twice every Sunday.”

After graduating from Boroughmuir Secondary School, Charlie completed a year in the music department at Edinburgh University before deciding that it wasn’t for him and leaving.

He instead went into electronics, serving five years in the Royal Air Force and learning his trade on ground radar equipment.

It led to qualifying as an engineer and working for British firm Ferranti, but his interest in music and love for playing the organ remained.

Charlie married his wife, Patricia, in 1962 and started regularly accompanying her to services at St Peter’s despite not being a Catholic himself.

He had not actively played for nine years when the offer to occasionally help out as the organist was made.

The resident organist resigned soon after, marking the start of Charlie’s ultimately regular post.

He said: “Nobody took the real step to find someone else, so it was more through inaction than anything else that I stayed. But I wasn’t objecting.”

His playing days at St Peter’s have seen four parish priests come and go.

One of the most memorable events occurred in July 2011 when St Peter’s was struck by lightning, with the force of nature badly damaging the electric organ.

Charlie said: “There was an enormous electrical storm and the church building was struck by lightning.

“Some equipment in the priest’s house was damaged and the organ, which was plugged into the mains but was actually switched off, was also damaged.”

The church sent parts of the organ back to its manufacturer in Italy. The instrument only returned to partial playing order about six months ago.

His effective retirement now from the post will give him even more time to spend with his wife, four children – John, Barbara, Claire and Andrew – and three grandchildren.