THE first phase of a project to restore the famous Lewis pipe organ at St Michael’s Church, Inveresk, has been completed.

Recognised across the country as a first class instrument, it is one of only two such organs in the Lothians and was donated to the church in 1895 by the Kirkwood family of Haddington.

The work, which was funded by St Michael’s, is a fitting swansong for Alex Shaw who retired as session clerk on Tuesday after 12 years in the post and oversaw the project.

He said the organ, which made a “positive contribution” at church services, especially at times such as Easter and Christmas, required a “substantial overhaul,” the first phase of which was now complete.

It was, however, out of commission during the recent restoration and repair of the kirk building itself which included repairs to the stonework.

Mr Shaw said: “While the work was being done to the church the organ had to be completely sealed off and covered up because of the dust.”

Then the first phase of the organ renovation, which was a separate project, got underway and took six months to complete. The organ was out of action for two years while all the conservation work at St Michael’s was being done but has been played again since mid-July.

During this time a digital organ, linked to the kirk’s sound system, was used as a temporary measure.

Restoration work to the Lewis organ, which is situated in the church sanctuary, included some leathering work to the bellows and electrical and mechanical repairs carried out including replacement of the old electrical transformer unit.

The instrument was originally made by Lewis and Company, founded by Thomas Christopher Lewis (1833-1915), one of the leading organ builders of late 19th century Britain.

Mr Shaw said further restoration of the organ would be carried out in the future if funding was obtained. The Rev Malcolm Lyon, church minister since 2017, was in post for two years before he heard the organ play due to the general church renovation work.

“There was a note of difference on Sunday mornings for worship,” he recalled. “The organ assists us in worshipping God.”

Mr Shaw retired at a meeting of the kirk session on Tuesday, saying the time was right to hand over the reins. He will be succeeded by Maureen Talac.

He was assisted with the administration of his duties by his wife Sandra who has retired as minute secretary which also involved taking the minutes of kirk session meetings. She will be succeeded by Mr Lyon’s wife, Ingrid.

As session clerk, Mr Shaw looked after the management of St Michael’s, working closely with Mr Lyon; he dealt with correspondence and requests to use the church, and helped people from all over the world in their quest to find out more about family members buried in the adjacent cemetery.

Mr Shaw was involved in arrangements for Remembrance Sunday, the annual Musselburgh Festival Kirkin’ service. and a committee set up for the 2016 Riding of the Marches.

Although the couple have lived in Longniddry for the past 18 years, they used to live in Musselburgh.

Mr Shaw is from the Honest Toun and has been associated with St Michael’s from an early age, having attended its Sunday School and joined the 58th Inveresk Boys Brigade.

He also served with the 297 Squadron, Musselburgh Air Cadets.

He has been an Elder at the church for just more than 40 years. Mrs Shaw was born and brought up in Wallyford.

Mr Lyon paid tribute to Mr and Mrs Shaw, saying they would still be very much part of church life as they were continuing as Elders.