A CHOIR is hosting a series of charity concerts to help celebrate its 50th anniversary in style.

Marske Fishermen's Choir Master and founder member, Bill Porritt, said the singing group has gone from strength to strength and never charge for a concert and raise money for charity.

The walls of the choir's spiritual home, The Ship Inn, tells the story of its early days as well as its founder – Jim Madden.

Talking about the origins of the choir, Mr Porritt said that there was an active fishing community in Marske in the 1960s and Jim Madden, who died in 1989, persuaded some fishing pals to have a sing song in The Ship.

Their first gig was at the York Hotel, Redcar for Coatham OAPs in December 1968.

“No-one thought we’d be here 50 years on,” he said “but it was a big decision to carry on after Jim died.”

Most of the mementoes of the pub wall have a nautical theme – except for a framed hammer. “That one always gives us a laugh,” smiled Bill. “It was Jim Madden who was getting frustrated with us at practice. He just grabbed it and started banging it on the table, ‘I’ll make singers out of you beggars yet.’ Someone took it and presented it to him next time we were at the pub.”

The Northern Echo:

Marske Fishermen's Choir Master and founder member, Bill Porritt, sharing memories in The Ship Inn

Amongst the choir's highlights are TV performances, including Songs of Praise, a performance at the Barbican in London to collect the group member of the year award from the RNLI and, in 2008, the choir was granted Freedom of the Borough of Redcar and Cleveland.

Some of the choir’s most popular songs reference the east Cleveland area, including well-known local song, The Smuggler. However one of the most popular songs is the Neil Diamond American classic Sweet Caroline.

The choir practices once a week at the old Zetland School in Marske and are looking for new members. They are all arranged by Bill who is sole accompanist on guitar and sing three-part harmonies for the “squeakers,” “groaners” and “grunters” in the group.

Recent gigs include the Zetland Lifeboat fund raising night on Friday and the Redcar and Cleveland Mayor’s charity last night. The next concert will be at St Joseph and St Cuthbert’s Church in Loftus on Friday, March 1.

Find out more at www.marskefishermenschoir.co.uk