Woman plays historic organ at Royal Victoria Country Park

A 91-YEAR-OLD woman played an organ over a century old after the community rallied together to surprise her. 

Kathy Williams from Swaythling was able to tinkle the ivories on Royal Victoria County Park’s 155-year-old organ.

She played the keyboard with her mum as a child and later played the organ and enjoyed musical outings with her goddaughter Hayley Whalvin.

Daily Echo: Kathy Williams and Hayley Whalvin. Photo: Nic DrewKathy Williams and Hayley Whalvin. Photo: Nic Drew

In recent years, due to restrictions posed by Covid-19, Kathy was unable to enjoy music as she normally would. 

As restrictions eased, Hayley, 47, wanted to “give her the gift of music” again.

Hayley said: “When lockdown happened, Aunty Kathy had to stay in more and she couldn’t go on adventures with me, so I wanted to give her the gift of music. 

“I originally contacted lots of companies asking where I can take Aunt Kathy to listen to the organ.

“I put a post on the Southampton Heritage Photos Facebook group and two days later Royal Victoria Country Park volunteer Trevor got in touch and said ‘we can do anything we can.’

“When I saw her play that organ on February 24 I cried, I can’t explain it.

“I wanted to give her the gift of music and happiness. She is my world.”

The organ Kathy played is from 1867 and was present in the chapel when it was The Royal Victoria Hospital, a large military hospital built on the grounds of what is now the country park.

Daily Echo: Kathy Williams. Photo: Nic DrewKathy Williams. Photo: Nic Drew

It was used extensively during the First World War.

Speaking on the experience, Kathy said: “Once I got going, I enjoyed it.

“The organ was so old and it was quite an event and surprise.

“It wasn’t expected at all but it was a great experience. I have played at different places but I have never played on an organ quite that old.”

Royal Victoria Country Park volunteer Trevor Jones, who also plays in The Newport Session Band, was keen to help Hayley with her request.

He said: “I saw Hayley’s post on Southampton Heritage Photos so I contacted her and arranged it all.

Daily Echo: Photo: Nic DrewPhoto: Nic Drew

“She brought Aunt Kath to the Chapel and she didn’t know she was going to play until she arrived.

“You can see she struggles with mobility but we got her comfortable on there and it was lovely. Music is something for life.

“It was nice to watch Kath play that organ and to see her come to life. That is the power of music.

“Kindness is one of the cheapest things to express.

“Sometimes it’s a word, sometimes it’s a phone number. It’s not hard to do.”  

Daily Echo Southampton