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Stroll through Christ Church graveyard at Thornton-le-Fylde on a Wednesday or Friday morning and you might just come across a group of 13 or so men mowing lawns, planting bulbs or tidying up memorials. These are the Friday Men, a group of volunteers who come out rain or shine to keep the graveyard and the grounds tidy.
The group has been going since the early 1980s, and incredibly one of the original members is still coming along. What’s even more impressive is he’s not the eldest – the ages range from 20 to 90! The youngest of the team has found his vocation since volunteering and is now apprenticed at the local Agricultural College.
The group isn’t just about maintenance and upkeep, there is a spiritual side too. “Under the guidance of our vicar we’ve created ‘Men United’, a men’s group,” explains John Hearnshaw, Warden at Christ Church. “We encourage not just members of the church but men from outside to come along and enjoy fellowship with us.” Every month the group meets up for drinks and a meal, and outsiders have started coming along to the church as a result.
The Friday Men also host visits from the local Red Marsh school, giving children with disabilities the chance to come and see the work being done and chat over a glass of juice and biscuits. “The whole set up is brilliant,” says John, “They love it.”
Now that the Friday Men have made it through to the final, there’s just one problem. Which of the 13 or so regulars will be getting on the coach to come down to the ceremony? “We drew the names out of a hat,” laughs John. “We all look out for each other and we thought that was the fairest way to do it!”