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World’s longest-serving altar server dies aged 103

The world record holder for longest-serving altar server has been laid to rest after a life of Faith and service.

Peter Reilly, who died aged 103, had his record verified by The Guinness Book of Records at St Mary’s Church, Saltcoats, on the occasion of his 100th Birthday.

Since first serving Mass in 1924 for Fr John Rooney, one of the founders of SCIAF, he continued to serve for 91 years.

To a packed congregation at St Peter in Chains Church in Ardrossan, Canon Matt McManus spoke of Peter’s commitment to those on the margins of society, including being a regular visitor to Glasgow’s Wayside Club for homeless people—organising annual trips to the Ayrshire Coast for the men—and he was instrumental in starting a Legion of Mary in Saltcoats.

Mr Reilly was awarded the Benemerenti Medal by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2009 (above). His service to the community was recognised when he was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2015 and he received a birthday blessing from Pope Francis for turning 100 years old.

Due to renovation work, his funeral was unable to be held in St Mary’s Church Saltcoats, which he had attended daily all his life. Instead it was celebrated at St Peter in Chains, Ardrossan, a church less than a mile away, with which he had a long association.

His parents had been responsible for acquiring the land for the church and later led a delegation to the ­archbishop of Glasgow before construction began in 1936.

Educated at St Mary’s Primary School, Saltcoats and later in Fort Augustus Abbey where he was head boy, he joined his father in running the family butter and egg importing business on leaving school. He learned to drive the lorry when he was just 11 years old.

A long-serving Church representative on the Ayrshire Education Committee, he was also chief invigilator in St Michael’s Academy in Kilwinning for 20 years.

Until recently he lived in the house in which he was born. His advice for a long life was ‘a healthy diet, saying your prayers and all things in moderation.’

Greatly loved by his many nephews and nieces and their families, he was also known as ‘Uncle Peter’ to many more beyond the family, having never married.

As a keen amateur film-maker he enjoyed documenting the life of the family and the town. Peter’s footage of Celtic legend Bobby Lennox’s wedding was shown in a documentary commemorating the 50th anniversary of the European Cup win in 1967.

Poignantly, the last ­photograph of Peter was taken with Bobby and Kathryn Lennox, a couple of weeks before his death, when he attended the lunch club at St Mary’s. The couple attended his funeral. Born on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, he had a lifelong devotion to Our Lady and was a frequent visitor to the shrine. His last trip was in 2014.

Peter was laid to rest beside his parents in Ardrossan Cemetery.

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