Team attends the funeral of the late John Edwards of Oldham Mountain Rescue Team.

This morning our Team Training Officer Elaine Gilliland and Reserve Team member Diane Blakeley represented our team at the funeral of the late John Edwards, a long serving member of Oldham MRT and a well known figure in local, regional and national mountain rescue circles.

Elaine and Diane journeyed to the Clarence Hotel, Chew Valley Road, Greenfield meeting point in our BM5 Minibus, which then took on mourners to join the large funeral cortege of other mountain rescue vehicles, under Police escort to the funeral service at Hollinwood Cemetery, Oldham.

A large wake involving a great many representatives from the UK and Irish Mountain Rescue Services then took place.

A full account of this day which was a wonderful celebration of Johns life appears here by Dianne & Elaine.
Please also see website ’news’ article dated Sunday 6th June 2010

Diane Blakeley’s account


    Team Training Officer Elaine Gilliland and Reserve Team Member Diane Blakeley represented the Bolton Team at John’s funeral. John aged 58 was a member of Oldham Team for over 20 years, during which time he had a number of roles including being the Team Chairman for the last five years.

    The funeral was one of those extremely sad occasions but it was also very enjoyable to see how in times of sadness the Mountain Rescue Family pulls together to support and care for each other. Obviously the entire Oldham Team attended but it was wonderful to see the number of other teams that sent representatives to pay their respects and show their admiration of John.

    Elaine and I took BM5 to help transport the many mourners and be part of a cortege which drove from Clarence Hotel, Greenfield to Hollinwood Crematorium. The convoy must have been 30 vehicles long. We were led off by a Police vehicle, followed by the Oldham Team van which was used to transport John’s body. Once the family had passed, the long line of MR vehicles proceeded.

    Teams represented included

    • all the teams from the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation:
      • Oldham,
      • Glossop,
      • Buxton,
      • Derby,
      • Edale,
      • Woodhead
      • and Kinder.
    • MPSRO teams who attended included
      • Bolton,
      • Rossendale and Pendle,
      • Holme Valley
      • and Calder Valley.
    • SARDA were represented including a number of search dogs.

    Some of our colleagues from further afield included

    • Peter Bell National MREW Representative, in his capacity as President of MREW,
    • Ray Griffiths Patterdale MRT,
    • Richard Terrell Central Beacons MRT
    • and from even further afield Derek Keegan who flew in that morning from Dublin representing the Irish MR Association.

    As the cortege proceeded from Greenfield we came to several road junctions where Police Officers and PCSO’s had stopped the traffic, forming very large queues to allow the cortege to pass. As we passed the officers who stood saluting every vehicle, I think we all had a very large lump in our throats as the once chattering voices fell silent and many sets of eyes began to well up.

    Once at the crematorium, all members from the MR Teams went ahead of the family where we made two lines to form a Guard of Honour. There must have been over 70 people and at least 3 search dogs. By the response from John’s family and friends it must have looked wonderful with Oldham Team all wearing their black polo shirts, followed by members from the other teams and the search dogs who all wore their red MR jackets. John’s coffin was carried by members of Oldham Team and as his family and friends followed behind through the Guard of Honour, Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon was played, which brought a smile to peoples faces as the music blasted out.

    There was not even spare standing space for everyone inside, even the centre aisle was three deep, with a mass of red jackets. The entire funeral had been organised by Oldham Team including building the coffin. The service was no different, ex Team Leader Jim Duffy acted as a Master of Ceremonies for this celebration of John’s life. Everything had been highly planned and it was a wonderful service which saw us one minute laughing at things John did or said before another minute shedding a tear. We sang some of John’s favourite songs including Zulu Warrior. The most moving part was John’s wife Mary, who shared with us very personal thoughts about life with John and some things we did not know. There could not have been a person in the building who was not moved by her bravery, honesty and the clear devotion and love she had for John. One of the most poignant points was when she acknowledged that she had on many occasions cursed the pager going off on those important days like their son Bob’s fourth birthday, followed by John dashing off to another call out, but now after the way Oldham Team had pulled together and supported her and her children, that in fact the team was a part of John’s family, an important band of brothers. Who from us could disagree when you looked around at the many faces, for me many I had known for 25 years, people whom I have known since I was only 17 and even though I have not been an active team member for many years, there was something extremely moving to see us all there together supporting John’s family and members of our own extended family Oldham Team.

    After the service we all returned to the Clarence Hotel in Greenfield where we celebrated John’s life in a way he would have enjoyed – lots of friends together chatting about the old days sometimes sad stories but many happy, whilst sharing a beer. The weather was kind which allowed us to fill the beer garden at the front of the pub and enjoy the sunshine as we reminisced. As the afternoon progressed into evening we moved inside where Jim Duffy again led this celebration of John’s life, this time we sang some of the many songs that John had loved including the Oldham Team song and Climbing Up The Sunshine Mountain which saw us all stood on chairs as we sang.

    As early evening moved on to late evening we left Oldham Team to continue their celebration. Although many tears had been shed it was a day that John would have enjoyed, a fitting tribute to a dedicated MR man of 20 years. A man I had known for nearly as long, sharing a drink, a story and joke with at numerous MR Conferences. He will be missed.

Elaine’s account of the day.

    It was with great sadness that Diane Blakeley and I travelled, today, to the funeral of the late John Edwards, Chairman of Oldham Mountain Rescue Team.

    On arrival at the Clarence Hotel in Greenfield, Oldham, the respect held for John was evident in the number of people already congregated and the ongoing arrival of friends of John and his family, and mountain rescue team members from Ireland, Wales and England.

    Once all attendees had arrived at the Clarence Hotel, a procession of both mountain rescue vehicles and family and friends followed John (secured in an Oldham Mountain Rescue Vehicle), travelling through the streets of Oldham to Hollinwood Cemetery, this being a very moving cortege with traffic being held at junctions by saluting Police Community Support Officers.

    At the Cemetery, at the request of John’s family, all members of mountain rescue provided a ‘Guard of Honour’ at the entrance to the Crematorium whilst John was carried through to the Chapel of Rest followed by his family and friends.

    The funeral service was initiated by Jim Duffy, Oldham Mountain Rescue Team Member, who gave an overview of John’s time with the team, John’s Daughter then read a moving tribute to her Father and finally John’s Wife bravely thanked the congregation for the support and love given to her and her family, and read of John’s devotion to his family and to Oldham Mountain Rescue Team. During the service two of John’s favourite songs were sung by the assembled group.

    After the service, everybody travelled back to the Clarence Hotel where one and all spent time reminiscing about John and his love of life in general.

    A celebration of John’s life then ensued with John’s favourite sayings, songs and actions (involving a number of bent trays) being quoted, sung and acted out.

    It was an absolute honour and privilege for Diane and I to attend John’s Funeral on behalf of Bolton Mountain Rescue Team and the condolences of the full team membership go to John’s Family.

Postscript,

Our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE, on Saturday 12th June, received the following email from Mick Nield, Team Leader of Oldham MRT.

    Garry,

    Just a quick line on behalf of the Team & John’s family to thank you & your members for the support in Johns send off. We can only hope that we all get a send off like that.

    With help of the staff at Oldham Crem we were able to get him back & on the bar for 6:30. Some doing to be at your own wake.

    Once again many thanks & lets hope it’s a long time till the next.

    Kind regards

    Mick