Praise for Batley Salvation Army singer who has retired after 60 years

A singer who has spent more than 60 years performing at the Salvation Army has been honoured with a certificate and gifts after announcing her retirement.

By Jessica Barton
Sunday, 22nd May 2022, 6:00 am
Dot with the Songsters in 1990.
Dot with the Songsters in 1990.

Dorothy Harris (Dot) started singing with the church and charity’s choir as a 17-year-old, first at the now closed Birstall Corps Church before moving to the Batley Corps in the early 1960s, where she has sung ever since.

Seventy-eight year old Dot has now announced her retirement and will also be stepping down from her role as songster librarian.

Dot, who has two children and three grandchildren, said: “I feel very privileged to have been part of the Batley Songsters.

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Dot was presented with a certificate and gifts by Corps Officer Captain Mark Cozens and Val Thomlinson during a recent Sunday service.

“Singing has been a great joy and blessing, a way of expressing my faith and ministering to other people through music - It’s a very rewarding experience.”

Brought up in a Salvation Army family, her father was a songster leader at the Birstall Corps and her mother a singing company leader.

Enrolling as a songster at the age of 17, Dot moved to the Dewsbury Corps at the age of 19 with her parents until it closed 18 months later and in 1963, she moved to Batley.

Outside of The Salvation Army, Dot worked for social services and then as a scheme manager at a sheltered housing complex.

She said: “The years have flown by and I have seen many changes such as going from wearing bonnets to hats! The songs have changed, as well as the musical arrangements.

“I would sing solo parts and before my husband Edwin died, we would do duets together - it was a joy.

“We had quite a few weekends away with the songsters across the UK and in June 1982 we performed at The National Songster Festival at The Royal Albert Hall with United Songsters from the territory, which was a great experience, and in 1991 The International Staff Songsters visited Batley.

“As the songster librarian, I worked closely with songster leader Val Thomlinson, deciding what songs would fit with the theme of the meeting that week - I also filed and indexed the sheet music.

“Val, as the leader, taught me how to put feeling into the music, that we are singing our testimony and giving a message.”

With reduced mobility due to arthritis, Dot took the decision to retire, but will continue to attend church and document the rich history of the Batley Corps, which recently marked its 140th anniversary, as corps historian.

Dot added: “It’s not been an easy decision to retire, but I feel like this is the right time.

“I will miss it, but I will still be singing on a Sunday, just in another part of the church.

“I will also miss the fellowship and devotion, but I will always have my memories - they will stay with me forever.”

To mark her retirement, Dot was presented with a certificate and gifts by Corps Officer Captain Mark Cozens and Val Thomlinson during a recent Sunday service.

Captain Mark said: “Music has such a rich heritage within The Salvation Army and is a big part of our church and worship.

“Dot has been at the centre of that as a songster and songster librarian.

“Dot gave a moving testimony and encouraged members of our new singing group to sing from the heart in praise of God.

“We want to thank her for her contribution and for inspiring a generation of new singers.”

The Salvation Army is an international Christian church and registered charity which has been transforming lives for more than 150 years.

Working in 132 countries worldwide, The Salvation Army offers friendship, practical help and support for people at all levels of need.

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