A County Durham piper has completed a seven-year-long mission to play a lament at the graves of over 4,500 Commonwealth war veterans buried across the region.

Kevin York, 71, of Bishop Auckland, completed his mammoth task on September 23 after playing at 4,598 registered Commonwealth War Graves in historic County Durham which at the time included the areas of Sunderland, Hartlepool and Gateshead.

Playing under the name the Bishops Piper, former guitar player Kevin took up the bagpipes in 2008 and in 2016 decided to embark on the task to play at the thousands of graves in the region.

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The Northern Echo: Ray Horner, Kevin York and Tommy Barraclough.Ray Horner, Kevin York and Tommy Barraclough. (Image: KEVIN YORK)

Despite having no connections to the military, Kevin, who also plays for The Lone Pipers group, decided to play for the fallen soldiers as an act of respect for their memory.

He explained: "I have previously played at D-Day events in Normandy as well as at Market Garden events in Holland, and I just felt that I needed to play.

"To me, it was like a conscience thing. I needed to do something as in my mind, by playing, I could go and thank them for what they did."

At the graves, Kevin plays renditions of songs including Hector the Hero and My Gallant Hero but admits he plays "whatever he feels" in the moment.

He completed his venture at the grave of Private 3649492 G. A. Shuttleworth of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) who died on 18th June 1947, aged 47, and is buried at St Mark's cemetery in Eldon Lane, Bishop Auckland.

Amongst those present at the final Graveside were veterans Raymond Horner of Eldon Lane who served in the Light Infantry Regiment and Thomas Barraclough who was in the Durham Light Infantry Cadets before joining the Light Infantry Regiment. 

After Kevin had played his final graveside tune, Raymond Horner presented him with an Edinburgh Crystal Glass Scottish Piper, whilst Tommy Barraclough presented both Kevin and Ray a limited edition Poppy Remembrance badge.

The Crystal Piper and Badges were paid for by a collection conducted by James Moffatt and Edward Slater in Chilton.

James also gave Kevin a County Durham Flag in honour of him playing the Graves of our County's fallen heroes.

For Kevin, continuing to remember what veterans sacrificed is something which is close to his heart.

"It is very important that these people and what they did are never forgotten", he said.

"But, I am over the moon to have finished. The amount of time, travelling and miles I've dedicated to this is huge. I am pleased to be finished."

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However despite this journey having come to an end, Kevin did confirm that he will continue to play at gravesides when he is presented with an opportunity.

He added: "Even though I have finished what I did set out to do, I still go and play if I see a cemetery. Wherever I play, someone will always turn up to stand and listen.

"They ask me 'why are you doing this?', I say, it's because I can and it's my way of saying thank you. I have a nice time doing it, and everybody enjoys it."