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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 April 2007, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Queen distributes Maundy coins
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh leaving Manchester Cathedral
As the Royal couple walked out they were greeted by crowds
The Queen has handed out Maundy Money to 162 pensioners in an Easter church service ahead of her 81st birthday.

She gave 81 men and 81 women two purses, filled with coins, at the ceremony at Manchester Cathedral.

One purse contained 81p in freshly minted Maundy coins marking the Queen's forthcoming 81st birthday.

The second purse held a 5 coin commemorating her diamond wedding anniversary and the centenary of the scouting movement.

It was the first time this service has been held in the city.

'Great honour'

The recipients were all retired pensioners recommended by clergy and ministers of all denominations in recognition of service to the church and the community.

Among them was Bill Birchby, who said he was "surprised but delighted" to be attending the event.

The 87-year-old, from Bolton, said: "It will be a great honour to meet the Queen - she's a wonderful person."

The Queen receiving flowers outside the cathedral
The ceremony is in a different place every year

As the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stepped out of the cathedral they were greeted by cheers and clapping as the bells rang.

After the service the royal couple took a short walk to a reception at Chetham's School of Music before attending a lunch at the town hall hosted by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Manchester.

The Maundy Service dates back hundreds of years and until the 18th Century the monarch would also wash the feet of the poor selected to receive the coins.

The origin can be traced to the Last Supper when, as St John recorded, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

Afterwards Jesus gave the disciples a command or "mandatum" - the Latin word from which Maundy is derived - to love one another.

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