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Organist cycles 3800 miles to raise money for organ restoration

08 July 2022

Diocese of Carlisle

John Corran returns to St Paul’s, Irton, in the Lake District, on Monday evening, after completing a 3800-mile cycle ride

John Corran returns to St Paul’s, Irton, in the Lake District, on Monday evening, after completing a 3800-mile cycle ride

A RETIRED head teacher and organist, John Corran, this week completed a cycling tour of 253 Anglican churches in England dedicated in honour of St Paul.

Mr Corran, who is 69, has cycled 3800 miles since the beginning of May to raise funds for the restoration of the 147-year-old Nicholson organ that he plays occasionally in his home church, St Paul’s, Irton, in the Lake District.

As the Church Times went to press, his efforts had raised more than £3000. Travelling up to 90 miles a day, he has followed a route from the depths of Cornwall to the borders of Scotland.

“It’s been tough,” he said. “When you look at a map, everything’s flat, but, when you get out there, there are lots of hills. The only good thing is you can free-wheel down the other side. ‘A’ roads are pretty boring, but the side ones can be wonderful. I started in the south, where it was the warmest, and moved north as the sun moved north.”

Twice, he found that his target church had disappeared. “One was under a housing estate, and another had been replaced by a school — although they did have a service once a week,” he said.

A seasoned cyclist, who rides up to 50 miles twice a week, he travelled light, with a sponge bag, a puncture repair kit, and a change of clothes. His bike was home-made several years ago from a variety of standard parts, but needed repairs only twice: once when three wheel spokes snapped and again when a suspension bracket broke.

Mr Corran completed his final day on Monday with a 40-mile run from St Paul’s, Witherslack, in Cumbria, to a welcome-home party in Irton.

“My sons who helped me plan the route think I am mad, but I have really enjoyed it,” he said. “I’m surprised at how well I feel; I’m probably fitter than I’ve ever been. Each day I’d get on the bike wondering if I’d be able to keep going, especially when it was hilly, but I did. I have been to places I would never have been to and met some wonderful people. They have been so helpful.”

Many offered him a bed for the night in their homes. Otherwise, he stayed in accommodation specifically for long-distance bikers, or in B&Bs. In Barnstable, when the only available bed was in the four-star Imperial Hotel, he was given a room at half price. “There were a couple of occasions when I thought I might have to sleep in a hedge bottom, but it never actually came to that,” he said.

His youngest son, Will, joined him on a tour of St Paul’s churches in east London (where Will lives). Mr Corran was also able to call in at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The churchwarden of St Paul’s, Irton, Janet Jennings, said: “We are all absolutely amazed at what John has done. The restoration of our church organ is so important to him, and we can’t thank him enough for all he’s done.”

Donations can be made to the organ appeal at: justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-corran-irton-organ

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