Tributes to North Pier organ player

TRIBUTES were today paid to a North Pier music legend after he died following a long battle with cancer.

Organist Raymond Wallbank played in the famous Sun Lounge at the pier from 1965 when he was spotted filling in for another organist at The Washington Hotel on Topping Street.

Mr Wallbank – who later put together three organ records – went on to play the venue each season for the next three decades while opening a popular music shop on Woodlands Road, Ansdell, in the 1970s.

The 77-year-old's funeral will take place on Thursday at St Cuthbert's Church, Lytham, when a white horse-drawn hearse will transport him through Lytham town centre to the service.

Friend and former-Gazette journalist Barry Band said: "From his early teens Raymond always had a musical group with himself on piano which attracted work in social clubs and hotels. In 1959, he formed a duo with drummer Tommy O'Connor and they did gigs around Lancashire. With every show they faced the problem of packing the organ and Tommy's drum kit into the back of a little Morris Minor estate car."

Mr Wallbank was born in Lytham in 1932 to a music teacher mother and produce merchant father.

He attended Ansdell County Primary School before heading to King Edward VII School in Fairhaven.

During his teenage years Raymond was head server at St Annes Parish Church and often deputised for the organist.

After school he qualified as an electrical engineer before joining the RAF for national service.

When he finished his time in the service, he worked in Fleetwood servicing radar units on fishing vessels before joining a TV repair company on Wood Street, St Annes.

He continued repairing and servicing instruments throughout his playing career before opening the Ansdell store in the 1970s where many Fylde organists got their first experience of the instrument.

Funeral director Mark Rae said: "He was quite a character and we have decided on the white horse-drawn hearse to add a final bit of theatre to his life."

Raymond leaves his wife Ann, two children, two step children, five grandchildren and a great granddaughter.