FOR fifty years Bolton Samaritans has supported tens of thousands of people in the borough by lending a friendly ear to people in their time of need.

The organisation had more than 13,000 phone calls last year alone from people with a variety of problems ranging from those with money worries to people who may feel suicidal.

The first call was taken at 4.50pm on May 3, 1965, from someone with a broken leg — which was logged as a hoax — and the first "real call" was taken 90 minutes later.

Jenny, aged 74, is the longest serving volunteer in Bolton — she has been a listening Samaritan for 40 years and says the organisation has become an important part of her life.

The great grandmother-of-four, who does not want to use her real name, said: "We still get the same kind of calls now as we did back then really. It's usually people who don't want to — or can't — share their problems with friends and family.

"The Samaritans is part of my life. Back then most women didn't work after they had children, but I decided to become a Samaritan thanks to the support of my family.

"It's about not being judgemental to the situation and listening to the caller. Some people will tell you their name, others won't, some will call regularly where others will only call once."

The organisation started out in an office on the third floor of Corporation Chambers, in Corporation Street, before moving to Bark Street in 1973.

The branch now has about 75 volunteers — roughly half of the amount it had in the '70s and early '80s.

Jenny, from the north Bolton area, said: "Technology has helped people get in touch with us more easily as we have more ways for people to contact us, so we are always in need of more Samaritans.

"We didn't get many callers back then apart from a few from phone boxes. People used to come to see us.

"It's the same now as it was back then, it's just that technology has taken over in all aspects of life, and many people prefer to email us or call on their mobile phones.

"As fast as one call ends another can begin. Some calls are two minutes, others are an hour. It is a very rewarding position. I would like to continue in the role for as long as I have the support around me."

Alison, director and listening volunteer at Bolton Samaritans, said: "This year marks a real milestone for Bolton Samaritans.

"The charity has changed a little over the years — it used to be more face to face support where as these days we do more phone and email chats, for example. But our core values are still the same.

"We have about 75 volunteers who all give up their time to listen to people who need someone to talk to, whether that is over the phone, via email or face to face.

"We will speak to anybody who needs an ear. People think that we are just for those who feel suicidal but we talk about a range of problems such as debt or relationship problems.

"At 2am when your friends and family have work in the morning, sometimes we are the only place people can turn to."

Bolton Samaritans is holding a dinner dance at Bolton School Arts and Conference Centre on Saturday, May 2. Tickets are £35 each. For more details or to book tickets contact Alison by emailing

To speak to a Samaritan, call 01204 521200 or email