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A sad day

The Funeral of John F McCann

The funeral of my brother, John McCann, yesterday Friday 14th April 2023 at 1pm

We followed the hearse from Sheep Street in Stratford upon Avon in a limousine. My husband John Ford, friends Hannah Cockram, Ant Hardy, Chris and Angie Molesworth in the car with us. Some joking went on until we got near to the crematorium in Leamington Spa, when reality started to set in. George the funeral director walked in front of the hearse and led it to the chapel entrance. I knew when we had got to our ‘party’ of friends as everyone was wearing a baseball cap and t-shirt. I kept thinking how my brother would have been so pleased. The funeral director George has become a bit of a friend since he organised the funeral of a friend and guided us beautifully through everything. We got out of the limousine and the six of us lined up to bear the coffin.

At this point, Matthew Curran came up to me and said “cheer up Janet” as he didn’t like seeing me upset.

The specially made flowers arrangement of a baseball cap with the name ‘John’ on the front, sitting on a cushion, was placed on the top of the coffin. Myself and Angie at the front started to cry as soon as we bore John’s body down the aisle and the music ‘In My Life’ by the Beatles started to play but we managed to carry him in past the picture of John on a easel at the front of the chapel looking very happy that all his friends were there.  I worried I would not get through the ceremony and be able to give the eulogy without blubbering the whole way through and have to stop.

Rick Carstairs was the celebrant and we had a lovely chat earlier in the week and gave advice on the length of the speeches etc. and also asked who was listening in on the livestream. Whilst I understood some people said they would be turning in, I knew for sure my 95 year old Aunt in Ireland and her family would be for definite and Rick kindly had us wave at her and welcome her and the family.

So, I got up and apologised in advance if I started ‘blubbering’ and did the eulogy, speaking about how funny he was, talented and how much he cared about the environment, animals, homeless, and poor – though I did cry – as I looked out at the friends in the chapel (and they were all friends and only one relative) who were all wearing their caps. I knew they were there for the love of my brother and that I had to get through the speech and say everything I wanted to say. I included a message from a friend from his primary school days:

John was in the year above me in Noel Park Primary School. That’s a big age gap at that age. It wasn’t until sixth form at Wood Green when we all shared a common room that I got to know him. He was quite a character with his music collection (even then) and his quick wit. I remember being impressed when he turned up the volume on an imaginary Marshall amp while playing air guitar. We were involved in the school plays. One time we performed an improvised Western sketch. John was the Deputy with a wonky leg. Every time he made his entrance he had a different gag about why he limped which made us corpse. Of course the audiences didn’t know it was the first time we’d heard it. Then there was John’s portrayal of Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons. “Look Mud” his first line. Looks like he used that experience a few times since. Anyway, we lost touch as you do but I came across him on Facebook and followed his posts. Sad to lose him. I’m sorry I can’t make the funeral as I will be abroad. Best wishes to all his friends and family. Steve Gooch

I therefore mentioned several of his friends – some he has know since he was 10, right up to the people from the Foodbank and Hannah and Helen and Ben and Chris and Angie who came to see him in those last few days of his life. The tissue I had did disintegrate quite a bit during the speech though!

Message from my cousin in Ireland following the livestream:

Aunty Peggy and the family got together to watch John’s service.  I must commend you on a truly personal and at times funny account of a truly talented and amusing man. Mum smiled as not once but twice her name was mentioned during the service (thank you). My biggest sorry was that as his cousins we never got to know what an amazingly talented and wonderful man our cousin John was.  Thank you from mum and all your Irish cousins for letting us have a little glimpse into John’s beautiful soul. Love Annie x

Message from friend Will following the livestream:

You did him proud, I was blubbering along with you. Will x

Then a teacher from his High School got up to talk about how John had been a good actor and in the folk band with him and proceeded to sing one of the songs.

Next, Rick the celebrant told the story of Dirty Cello. John had met this group one day whilst volunteering at the Music Museum in Coventry and had a long chat. He saw them later at The Keys in Ely Street, Stratford but couldn’t hear them due to a missing amplifier. They sent a clean recording of this especially for the funeral. (Incidentally, Pete Chambers from the Coventry Music Museum wrote a poem especially and this can be seen on the Order of Service above).

After White Rabbits cover version of Dirty Cello had finished, friend Ben got up to say some funny stories about John and his acting etc.

Then friend Chris Molesworth approached the lectern and turned on his app which had his speech on it and again was very funny about the lithium crystals and riding a Trike Motorcycle, much to John’s horror. (They told me more stories in the car, not repeatable in a chapel!)

A last-minute speech was given by friend from his teacher training days Dave Sturrock and poem ‘The Snapper’ (as they used to call John – presumably when he was just a ‘whipper snapper’.

All too soon the Celebrate gave a blessing and we left to the sound of I will Remember You by Sarah McLaclan.

So many people came up to me to say how lovely the ceremony was (as is traditional I know) but I did feel my brother would have been very gratified by the turn out of people that almost filled the large North Chapel – and dressed as his ‘tribe’ in his honour.

I also received more donations for the Foodbank, which is now over £500 !

Thank you everyone that came to the ceremony to pay your respects. It means a lot. Thank you to those that got up to speak. Thank you for those that sent flowers. Thank you to those that wore a baseball cap and t-shirt in his honour and thank you to all those that donated so generously to one of John’s charities and whom he volunteered. Thank you to those that came back to the Keys in Ely Street for the wake and where John had listened to Dirty Cello (unfortunately, we had hoped to spread out into the lovely garden but the rain stopped that) and to those that watched on line.

I hope to see those same people make the Remembrance exhibition at Stratford Playhouse where he spent many happy hours listening to music on Sunday 16th and to wish him Happy Birthday.

Janet Ford (little sister of John F McCann).

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