Martin, 95, is up for top songwriter prize

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AMATEUR songwriter Martin Selwood has become the oldest person ever to reach the semi-finals of a top national songwriting competition.

The 95-year-old great-grandfather now has dreams of seeing his music sold on the high street after it caught the ear of judges at the annual UK Songwriting Contest.

ON SONG Martin Selwood, 95, has reached the semi-finals of a top songwriting contest.   Picture: Steve Reid (113165-803)

ON SONG Martin Selwood, 95, has reached the semi-finals of a top songwriting contest. Picture: Steve Reid (113165-803)

Electric organ player Martin wrote the music and lyrics for his successful entry – Mary’s Heavenly Baby – and worked with American-born singer and actress Jamie Szynal to bring it to life.

The retired shopkeeper was stunned when his song landed him with a certificate and high praise from the contest’s judges – with one even declaring it the best song they had heard out of 5,000 entries.

‘I was delighted,’ he said. ‘The more people who hear my music the happier I’ll be.

‘If I could get it sold on CDs that would be a dream come true – and I could always do with a bit of extra money.

CO-WRITER Jamie Szynal

CO-WRITER Jamie Szynal

‘Jamie has a lovely voice and I think the song is pretty good, all I need is to get it professionally recorded.’

Over 40 years Martin, of Keydell Avenue, Horndean, has written books, short stories and plays, but turned his hand to songwriting when tunes started popping into his head which fitted with his poems.

‘Poems and song lyrics are very similar really,’ he said. ‘I always write the words first and then sometimes I’ll just start to hear the music to go with it.

‘My favourite songs are old ballads from the 30s and 40s which I can still remember all these years later, so many of my songs are in that style, but I’ve tried writing some pop songs as well.’

The grandfather-of-six originally penned a dreamy ballad called My Lovely Lady – in just 10 minutes – back in 2008.

He was then asked by the congregation of St James Church, in Clanfield, if he could rework it into a hymn for their choir – and Mary’s Heavenly Baby was born.

The ballad is about a fictitious dream and the singer’s adoration for a lovely lady with ‘hair like spun gold’ who sweeps him off his feet.

He said: ‘It isn’t based on anyone in particular, so I didn’t mind changing the words for the church.

‘I’m able to write songs easily really – I have a very good ear for music. My sons think I’m amazing.

‘This is the eighth time I’ve received an award for my songs, so hopefully I can take it even further in years to come.’

To find out more about the UK Songwriting Contest go to