Fond farewell for rugby player Garry Purdham

By Caroline Henderson
BBC News in Gosforth

Image caption, Hundreds watched as Garry Purdham's coffin was carried into the church

The sun was shining over the small Cumbrian village of Gosforth as hundreds gathered to bid their final farewell to their friend and neighbour, Garry Purdham, who was gunned down by Derrick Bird during his rampage on 2 June.

Workers closed the doors of the village shop and bakery as a mark of respect and to allow staff to attend the funeral at St Mary's Church.

The roads surrounding the picturesque building and cemetery, set against a rural backdrop, were strictly controlled by police cordons.

A number of people not attending the service lined the pavement.

Television crews were permitted a small area within the cemetery grounds, a stark reminder to mourners that the world has been watching Cumbria and the tragic events that have unfolded here.

The number of people who turned out for Mr Purdham's funeral, is testament to his character.

The small village was overwhelmed by the number of people there to pay their respects.

A farmer opened his field nearby allowing people to park their cars.

It was clear that he was a well-liked man.

Mourner Celia Walker, 61, said: "The funeral has brought the most people to Gosforth I've seen because he was a rugby player and member of the farming community. He was well-known."

His former rugby team-mates, the Egremont Rangers, lined up standing side by side to form a pathway leading into the church, guiding mourners to the service.

Emotional day

With pride they wore specially-embroidered black polo shirts with the club crest and Mr Purdham's name sewn over the heart - united as a team in honouring their friend.

It was a colourful congregation. While some opted for traditional black, others wore bright colours, an indication of Mr Purdham's personality.

A church bell gently tolled for five minutes as the funeral procession made its way to the church.

Mr Purdham's widow, Ros, carried their two sons, Flynn, aged two, and Cameron, eight, who both wore their father's rugby team strips with the name "Purdham" printed on the back.

As friends of Mr Purdham raised his coffin to walk towards the church, Mrs Purdham succumbed to the emotion of the day and cried.

She was not alone. Many of the players and fellow mourners silently wept as Mr Purdham made his final journey to his local church.

Once the funeral service had finished, the coffin bearers, including Mr Purdham's brother Robert, carried the coffin out back to the waiting hearse.

As they did so the rugby players, who had reformed their line, clapped in tribute to their team-mate.

It is clear that this popular man will never be forgotten by the people of Gosforth.