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Sally Army veteran plays trombone for 76th year in a row

Veteran musician George Neeve would never blow his own trumpet - but there are plenty of admirers who are more than happy to do it for him.

Because this year will be the 76th consecutive Christmas that he has performed with the Salvation Army band.

Veteran bandsman George Neeve with the group's youngest new member, Bailey Kite, eight.
Veteran bandsman George Neeve with the group's youngest new member, Bailey Kite, eight.

His friends at the Canterbury Corps in White Horse Lane believe his remarkable contribution to the charity may be unique.

But George, 83, who began learning the trombone with the Salvation Army in Deal when he was just six, is as dedicated and keen as ever.

A printer by trade, he moved to Canterbury from Deal in 1952 to work for Elvy and Gibbs in Orange Street.

He later worked at the University of Kent and the King’s School, where he ran the Caxton Society, and did not fully retire until he was 80.

His enthusiasm for music was infectious in his family.

His late wife, June, played the piano and now his two sons, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren are all Salvation Army band members.

Indeed his son, Martin Neeve is the band leader.

George, who lives in Queen’s Avenue says he loves playing as much as ever and never misses a rehearsal.

"It just something that has been a huge part of my life and given me great enjoyment," he added.

Major Chris Sands, who leads the Canterbury Corps, said: "George is an absolute gem and I am sure his long service is quite exceptional.

"He’s just a real joy to have around the place and everyone has adopted him as a sort of grandfather figure."

He added: "When I came here four years ago and got our annexe rebuilt, George was the first to offer to volunteer and rides his bike to the centre most mornings to be the first to turn on the hot water and serve tea.

"He’s a real gentleman and his dedication deserves an award."

On Christmas Eve, George will be performing with the 24 strong band in Rose Square for the carol service in aid of the Lord Mayor’s Christmas Gift Fund.

Among the musicians will also be its youngest new member, Bailey Kite, eight, from Sturry who is learning the cornet.

A pupil at Wickhambreaux, he took up the instrument nearly a year ago.

George said: "Seeing Bailey reminds me of when I started. But it’s great to see youngsters taking up an instrument and I hope he gets the same enjoyment that I’ve had over the years."

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