Number up for Stalham bingo couple - after 30-plus years of calling

A stalwart couple from north Norfolk are hoping for a full house next week now that their number is up after raising a jackpot amount for local charities.

Stalham couple James Andrews and his wife Marie have been married for 57 years and together have organised charity bingo events at the Town Hall for nearly half a century.

Between them they have raised �129,452.95 for local charities, including causes such as Macmillan Nurses, East Anglian Air Ambulance, Stalham and Smallburgh First Responders and Sea Palling and Happisburgh lifeboats.

But now they are hanging up their bingo cards and handing over the tombola reins to retire for a well-earned break.

Eighty-six-year-old Mr Andrews, of St Benet's Close, has been fund-raising for local causes since the age of 22, when he started volunteering at the former Bacton St John Ambulance branch.

He said: 'We held bingo events there as well but also things like fetes and whist drives to help bring in money for the group.'

He eventually worked his way up to superintendent and when the couple moved to Stalham in 1965 he helped to start up a branch in the town.

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'That's when we first started the charity bingo at the Town Hall,' he said.

'We used to fund-raise for up to 20 different groups per year at any one time. But it makes no difference how good you are - if our supporters don't back us or turn up then it wouldn't work. They are the most important people.'

Mr Andrews's main role has been to organise the event and he previously did the number calling, while 78-year-old Mrs Andrews gathers bingo prizes.

And the great-grandparents said one of their favourite bingo numbers was number 59 - the Brighton Line - which got its name from the London to Brighton bus service.

'We like it because the hall will always shout 'woo woo' like a train when it's called,' Mrs Andrews added.

Twenty-five years ago the retired post office worker became president of the Stalham St John Ambulance branch, eventually becoming north Norfolk vice-president.

But since his retirement the couple focused on raising funds for local organisations instead and Mr Andrews estimates that he has raised more than �300,000 for charities in his lifetime.

'We have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves doing the charity bingo and we are very proud,' he said.

'The highlight of doing it is giving people somewhere to go and enjoy themselves and also helping good causes.'

Mrs Andrews added: 'We have had very good, loyal support.'

The couple are holding their last charity bingo evening at Stalham Town Hall tonight, eyes down at 7.30pm.

They will be joined by Ted Firman - who has been helping call the numbers for the last 12 years - and will continue to support the event.

The charity bingo evenings will now be organised by Sybil Langley, of Ludham.

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