Community comes together to give former sailor fitting send-off

A funeral procession was led by a bike.

A funeral procession was led by a bike. - Credit: Archant

The neighbours and friends of a former Merchant Navy sailor from Earith rallied around after discovering he had no family to attend his funeral.

A service was held at Cambridge Crematorium

A service was held at Cambridge Crematorium - Credit: Archant

John Forbes Keith, who had lived in Earith all his life, died in January but had no relatives to help plan his funeral.

When his neighbours found out, however, they decided to do something about it.

The community came together and raised funds so that they could give Mr Forbes Keith the send off he deserved.

People pitched in for a floral tribute and a local children’s playgroup made a hand print wreath for the service.


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A group of 13 mourners attended the funeral ceremony on March 21, at Cambridge Crematorium to say their final farewells.

The service, which was conducted by Reverend Tim Williamson, saw a motorbike escort organised by Dave Smiley Wilding-Glendye, which led the car from the funeral directors to the crematorium.

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Mr Forbes was in the Merchant Navy in his younger years and died suddenly at home in Earith.

Patricia Lines, who lived opposite Mr Forbes Keith, said: “When we heard that he was to have a funeral without any mourners I was so shocked. We decided that we couldn’t let this happen and that he deserved to have a proper send off.

“We then decided to gather donations together from around the village and we managed to raise £100.

“Instead of having a pauper’s funeral with no ceremony, John had a dignified service and was remembered by the community of Earith.

“As an ongoing legacy we hope to provide a network for people within our community who require social support, so that we don’t have another villager dying alone.”

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