FATHER John Quinn, popular Roman Catholic priest in Amesbury for the past 29 years, is retiring after more than 40 years in the priesthood.

On Sunday, more than 120 people, young and old, gave Father John a surprise retirement party, to mark his long service to the Catholic Church, and in particular his many years in Amesbury.

A member of the Christ the King congregation in Amesbury, Ian Simpson, told the Journal: "Father John is held in great affection by a lot of people in Amesbury.

"He is a man who has the interest and the well-being of both young and old very much to heart and he is popular with all ages."

Sunday's party included a lunch, games for the children in the afternoon and the cutting of a specially made retirement cake.

Father John has always had a soft spot for Amesbury and he has decided to live in the town during his retirement.

He will occasionally help out with services, providing cover when needed.

Father John trained for the priesthood in St Kieran, Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1956 and came to Amesbury as a curate in 1964.

His first appointment as priest was to St Mary's, Swindon.

In 1978, he returned to Amesbury where he has since remained.

Another well-known Roman Catholic priest is on the move. Canon Thomas Atthill, who has been in charge at St Osmund's and Holy Redeemer churches in Salisbury for the past 18 years, is moving to Tisbury.

Canon Atthill, who is also rural dean of the Salisbury deanery - which takes in Salisbury, Amesbury, Wardour and Tisbury - is to be the parish priest for Tisbury and Wardour. He will remain rural dean and a canon of Clifton Cathedral.