Owls of Pill mark 100-year celebrations with plaque, book and documentary

PUBLISHED: 08:00 26 January 2020

Pill Owls singing at their book launch during Portishead Christmas lights switch on.    Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Pill Owls singing at their book launch during Portishead Christmas lights switch on. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Archant

A Dickensian men’s choir has celebrated 100 years of bringing festive cheer throughout North Somerset.

Pill Owls singing at their book launch during Portishead Christmas lights switch on.    Picture: MARK ATHERTONPill Owls singing at their book launch during Portishead Christmas lights switch on. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

The Pill Owls have been a staple of festive celebrations throughout the district for a century while raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity. For many, it 't'aint Christmas till you've heard The Owls'.

A stone and plaque commemorating the choir's centenary under their 'favourite' railway arches in Pill, where they hold their final performance every year, was unveiled by Pill councillor Don Davies.

An Owl spokesman said the group was grateful to all the organisations and people who helped make the 'striking plaque and boulder in the heart of the village a reality'.

He said: "We never cease to be amazed by, and truly appreciate, the support we have consistently received from the village over these 100 years.

Plaque marking their 100th anniversary unveiled by the Owls of Pill.        Picture: MARK ATHERTONPlaque marking their 100th anniversary unveiled by the Owls of Pill. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

"Without this generosity, we would not be able to raise such significant amounts for our charities. Here's to the next 100 years."

When asked what makes the group so special, Pat Derrick, who has been an Owl for 51 years, said: "They are such a fine group of fellows that come from all walks of life, and music is a great mixer, and we have a great mix.

"When we are singing five or six hours a night, you would think, when we are sitting on the minibus to drive between calls, we would have a quiet night, but no, we start to sing straight away."

A book chronicling the history of Pill and the Owls by Alan Vowles was published, and the group was followed for six weeks by documentarian Matt Jones.

The Owls of Pill unveiling a plaque marking their 100th anniversary under the railway arch at Watchhouse Road.        Picture: MARK ATHERTONThe Owls of Pill unveiling a plaque marking their 100th anniversary under the railway arch at Watchhouse Road. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Mr Jones said: "The story of the Owls is full of intrigue and great anecdotes.

"As a film maker, I'm interested in music, the military and history, and, while following them, I got to hear about all three. I really have to take my hat off to them."

The group was founded in 1919 by the Reverend Robert Griffith, who organised members of the local youth group, The Owls, to raise money for soldiers who had returned from the war blinded by gas attacks.

To date, they have raised more than £350,000 for charities that support the visually impaired by singing at 80 venues each December, including care homes, schools, hospitals and numerous public events.


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