Dudley organ's £200,000 repair job fixed with WD40, tape and pins

A century-old organ at a Black Country church which needed a £200,000 repair job was instead fixed with double-sided tape, WD40, and just £45 spent.

Tim Lees with the organ at St John's Church in Dudley
Tim Lees with the organ at St John's Church in Dudley

The grand organ, which has been at St John's Church in Dudley for more than 150 years, has been in need of urgent repair for decades.

But after church leaders were quoted £200,000 for the major task, they almost lost hope it would ever be fixed again.

That was until organist Tim Lees, who grew up in Dudley, decided to take on the mammoth project himself.

The 76-year-old first "became hooked" on playing the organ when he was just a boy, after his mother sent him and his brothers to St John's Church to keep them out of trouble on a Sunday.

He has since played for dozens of notable figures, including the Queen, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles, Nelson Mandela, and former President Jimmy Carter.

He was also the personal organist to the Sultan of Oman for 10 years.

Tim Lees with the organ at St John's Church in Dudley

Tim, who now lives in Leicester, said: "We thought, we haven't got the money so what's the best way? Well we do it ourself.

"A friend of mine is an organ builder so I asked him for lots of advice and I had someone come to help too and we thought we'd look at what we could do ourselves.

"We needed a lot of WD40, drawing pins, double-sided tape, and then bingo, the whole thing was up and running for £45."

Tim came to Dudley once or twice a week to carry out the repair, which overall took 10 weeks to complete.

He now says it just needs tuning, which a professional must do – but won't be a large expense.

The musician played the organ for the first time in years at a special church service on Saturday – celebrating both 180 years since the church was built and the first official service since lockdown began.

He added: "It was historic. We had a problem in the rehearsal but the man helping me went in to fix it and the actual service went perfectly.

"No-one wanted to leave at the end and asked me to play more. I really did put it through its paces and kept my fingers crossed but it went without a hitch."

Tim, who also taught music at Wednesbury Boys High School and was director of music at Dudley Boys Grammar School, said without St John's Church he doesn't believe he would have led the life he did.

"I owe a great debt of gratitude to that church," he said. "I would ask anyone who's interested to visit St John's – they are trying to turn it into almost a local museum and there is a vast churchyard – with so many famous local people in there.

"Without that church I don't think I would do what I do now."

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