A pillar of the Kirkby Stephen community has received special recognition from The Queen for services to his local church and parish.

Clifford Simpson was one of two Cumbrian recipients, along with Doreen Hoking from Cleator, to receive Maundy money, a centuries-old Easter tradition.

And they joined 96 men and women - equal in number to the age of The Queen, to be presented with the money at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on Maundy Thursday.

Prince Charles attended the service in lieu of The Queen for the first time.

Clifford, 79, was accompanied by his wife Nan.

He has been associated with the Parish Church of Kirkby Stephen for over seventy years, having served under nine vicars.

He originally attended Sunday School, then served as a choir boy and bellringer and sat on the Parochial Church Council for more than 40 years, including service as a churchwarden.

For the past 25 years, he has actively overseen the upkeep of the church building and grounds and supported local sports clubs – playing cricket, hockey and badminton.

Clifford said: "I was taken aback when the letter arrived.

"It was totally out of the blue.

"The day was brilliant.

"We travelled down on the Wednesday and all had a meal together that night.

"It was lovely to meet Prince Charles. He shook all our hands and said, ‘On behalf of The Queen, thank you very much'."

The tradition of the sovereign giving money dates from the thirteenth century. Each recipient is given two leather purses – one containing coinage worth £5.50 in lieu of food and clothing and the second contains silver Maundy coins, the same number of pence as the sovereign’s age.

The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, said: "It is wonderful to know that Doreen and Clifford had such a memorable day.

"It is an honour to receive the Maundy money but it is one which they both richly deserved for the selfless dedication they have shown through decades of service to their respective churches and communities. We are blessed to have people such as this in our Diocese."

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