A CHOIR which started life with part-time fishermen singing sea shanties in their local pub is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The Marske Fishermen's Choir evolved from a group who used to play instruments in the town's Ship Inn after a day's fishing.

From there the choir began as the late Jimmy Madden agreed to arrange some harmonies for sea songs if volunteers were willing to practice them.

The group performed their first concert in 1968 and today performs 25-30 each year, between September and March, never charging a fee for a concert but raising money for, primarily, the RNLI.

Musical director Bill Porritt said: "Who would have thought that we would still be doing what we love, still singing, 50 years on from our first concert on December 12 1968 at the York Hotel, Redcar, for Coatham OAPs.

"Our aim, all those years ago, was to bring a little entertainment and joy into the lives of those less fortunate than outselves.

"It was never Jim Madden's aim to raise money. However, with, to use a nautical phrase, a fair wind and a good man at the helm, we succeeded until Jim passed away in 1989."

After discussing the situation the choir took the decision to carry on.

They use the same format by never charging for a concert and helping to raise funds for whichever charity or good cause that asked. Records, CD's and TV appearances followed. Since 1968 there have been 100 members taking part, with the number currently standing at 19.

In 2006 the choir performed at the Barbican in London to collect the group supporter of the year award from the RNLI.

And in 2008 the choir was granted the Freedom of the Borough by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, an accolade shared by the late Mo Mowlam and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson.

Mr Porritt said: "It was, and always will be, an unforgettable occasion and a tremendous honour in the choir's story.

"We want to express out thanks to friends, family and members of the public who've attended our concerts over the years, whose money has helped whichever charity or good causes we sing for."