A well-loved Oswaldtwistle preacher has clocked up an amazing 50 years in the pulpit.
Colourful Ivor Cooper, who is also a qualified football linesman and local panto star, is celebrating an unbroken five decades since he gave his first church service back in October 1960.
The 77-year-old has been preaching for most of his life and now does the bulk of his speaking at West End Methodist Church.
As a lay preacher Mr Cooper is not an ordained clergy member but can lead and speak at worship services on a regular basis.
The former headteacher, who lives in Haslingden, began his preaching life in Preston but soon moved to East Lancashire.
He gave his first services in Oswaldtwistle in the 1960s, and later served as a councillor on the former Haslingden Borough Council for seven years.
Mr Cooper, who has also preached in Central America, Spain and in the Philippines, said his life had been a “wonderful experience” and he has no plans to retire just yet.
“I do hope I am still of use to those who attend services,” he said.
“I started a very long time ago and don't plan to stop until my health gives way. I have spoken in many countries all over the world and feel very privileged to have done so, and to have met so many people.”
But despite all these exotic experiences, it was a trip to Leeds that provided one of his most memorable moments.
He said: “I was helping a friend with a removal job in Leeds and attended a Sunday morning service while I was there. Following the service, I was told by one of the ladies in the congregation that I was snoring at one point and had woken her up. Of course I apologised but it was rather funny.”
In addition to his church work, Mr Cooper is a linesman, incurring the wrath of many a manager by running the line at many lower league matches over the years.
West End Methodist Church member Jeff Ellis paid tribute to “an incredible man”. “He is well travelled and has a lot to say about many things, ranging from his travels to breaking up fights during football matches,” he said. “Fifty years is a long time for any job and we are very lucky he has shared so much time with us.”
Mr Cooper is also a local panto star, most recently appearing as an elephant in a local production of Sinbad the Sailor.
He joked: “There were no holes in the eye sockets of the costume so one night when I was on stage I fell off into the audience. Following the performance I heard a boy tell his mother that it was best part of the show!”