"I played the organ for 80 years, for 65 as organ master of St Augustine’s Church in Thorpe Bay, Essex, outlasting eight vicars there. I started playing when I was young. As a child, I had a lot of illness. This meant I didn’t get to school until I was 13, so music had to be a close companion for me throughout my early years.

When I was leaving school I saw my cousin’s office in the bank he worked in. He had a gas fire and a swivel chair and I thought, ‘That’s the job I want.’ I started working there at 18 and stayed in banks until I retired, apart from when I got my call up papers.

I failed the medical exam which meant I was sent to work in the Royal Army Pay Office. We were all moved to Leicester where we took over all the paperwork for the war, dealing with the papers for everyone who had been killed and all the financials for everything to do with the army.

While in Leicester, two wonderful things happened. One was that my eyes were opened to the full beauty of organ music when the Cathedral organist Dr George Gray agreed to give me lessons. The other was that I met my wife.

“Music can be a great comfort in old age, a hobby unlike any other. If you have a piano you always have a friend and, from that friend, you can produce life."

Victor, 100 years old

The tiff that ended in a marriage proposal

Margaret was a local teacher. We courted for two and a half years, enjoying going out on our pushbikes in the countryside. Then we had a tiff and Margaret suggested we go our separate ways for a week. I didn’t want to but I agreed.

At work on Monday morning, feeling miserable, I was suddenly told I’d been selected to go overseas in two weeks’ time. 

I had to go round and tell Margaret. She answered the door and said, ‘I thought we weren’t seeing each other.’ I told her what had happened, got carried away and popped the question.

We only had a week to organise the wedding. All panic set in. She bought a dress and I wore my uniform, then we had a five-day honeymoon. After this, uniform back on and kit bag on my shoulder, I was on a train to Liverpool, then on board a liner taking me to a branch of a bank in Egypt.

This meant I didn’t see Margaret for two and a half years. We could only communicate by airmail letter. We used to number each one and try to write every day. I still have them all now.

Back in civilian life we had three children and I worked in banks until I retired.

Victor Knill

Victor and Trevor

My good friend Trevor

I lost Margaret 14 years ago after a stroke. It was such a terrible shock and I struggled to keep my head above water. As well as my family, music and the church helped me do this.

Music can take your mind off everything. You can read the newspaper and think, ‘What’s the world coming to?’ then you play or listen to the slow movement from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and it’s all forgotten.

When poor eyesight meant I had to finish playing the organ after 80 years, I needed companionship to deal with my loneliness. My daughter organised for Trevor from Independent Age to visit me.

In a very short space of time we were taking the micky out of each other, pulling each other’s legs. We have a lovely friendship.

I moved into a care home a few months ago and Trevor was a constant and reassuring presence. It was quite a change coming here but I feel safe and have people to chat to.

Victor’s volunteer visitor, Trevor, says:

“Victor and I have many differences – I’m not musical at all – but I’m so inspired by him and our friendship is definitely a two-way street. Funnily enough, my stepdaughter was married in his church and, unbeknown to me then, I heard him play the organ and remember it adding so much to the occasion. A treasured memory because of how much I know about Victor now.”

Celebrating 100 with Bach and Mendelssohn

I turned 100 this year and my birthday celebrations included being invited to a recital of organ music of two favourite pieces nominated by me that I used to play: the Prelude and Fugue in B Minor by Bach and the Number 6 so called ‘Organ Sonata’ by Mendelssohn in D Minor. That was quite a moment.

And, while I can’t play anymore, I have my radio turned permanently to Classic FM. Good music is my companion still.”

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