Christmas at Ripon Cathedral this year marked a very special and poignant anniversary for one man.

70 years ago, Norman Kitney was an 11-year-old altar server at his very first Midnight Mass.

As well as assisting in the preparation of the altar for Holy Communion, a server performs other tasks which include helping the clergy during the service.

Norman, who lives in Leeming Bar, said: “I remember being very nervous, because it was something that was completely new. This was a very special occasion being the first Midnight Mass after the war and the first time I had served in a service, so Christmas always means something special to me.”

In post-war Britain, things were very different.

“Rationing was in and sweets were unheard of,” remembers Norman, who was then living in Lymington in Hampshire.

“There was great relief,” he said, “because Lymington was not far from Southampton and we saw the daylight raids on the port – hordes of enemy aircraft flying in to bomb the city.”

Norman has spent the last 25 years at Ripon Cathedral and was head server for 15 of those.

He added: “A server is someone who is there and has only done their job when they have not been noticed. After the service when you know it has gone well, it’s been a worthy act of worship and praise. Being a server here at Ripon Cathedral is being a member of a very caring, loving family.”

The Dean of Ripon, the Very Reverend John Dobson, said: “Norman has been a faithful servant of the church for most of his life and has served the cathedral well as a server for decades, for many years as head server. I am delighted that we are able to celebrate with him as he marks this significant anniversary.”

Norman will celebrate his 70th anniversary at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, when the Bishop of Ripon, the Right Reverend James Bell, will be leading the service.