On a bright and sunny though cold afternoon on Thursday 4th of December small groups of folk began to gather in the grounds of St Mary’s Church at the bottom of Chapel Street, Penzance for the funeral of our dear departed friend, Clive Palmer. Greetings, handshakes, hugs, exclamations of surprise were issued in steaming breath as old friends found old friends and old memories were rekindled. It was lovely to see and hear. Across the sun sparkled water lay the fishing port of Newlyn and below that Mousehole, the whitewashed houses contrasting the light and darker greens of the hills above. The sun cast angled shadows from the ancient gravestones. As the crowds grew so too did the hubbub and now sudden cries of laughter also interspersed the general buzz of chatter. This lulling murmuring was soon stilled though by the sound of a piper playing on a full set of Highland Pipes as Bill Buchanan (of http://www.cornishhighlandpipers.co.uk) began the musical prelude to the arrival of the hearse bearing Clive’s coffin and the following limousine carrying his close family and friends. The strains of ‘Highland Cathedral’ and ‘The Green Hills Of Tyrol’ among others drifted among the gathered throng who started to make their way into the beautiful old church which had once been a chapel in the 13th Century and also rebuilt in 1834 as Bill began playing the hauntingly exquisite air: *’The Dark Isle’. (*link: http://youtu.be/-cIij7zWdN0 )
As Bill, Clive’s own personal bagpipe tutor, played on, Clive’s coffin was taken from the hearse and brought up to the church doors. A respectful hush then fell over the congregation as Clive’s superb composition: ‘A Leaf Must Fall’ by The Famous Jug Band was played on the P.A. system and Jilly Johnson’s pure, sweet voice sang Clive’s own poignant lines: ‘If you must go, go now…’ which filled the air as Clive’s coffin was wheeled in to stand in place before the altar.
The service was conducted by Reverend Sian Yates, who after the opening sentences, led the congregation in the hymn: ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ with Mr Nigel Wicken on the organ who, like seemingly all church organists, played the last verse with some unusual flair and a certain gusto!
Reverend Yates conducted the opening prayers then a eulogy containing tributes from old friends was spoken by Mic McCreadie. This included a glowing accolade to Clive’s recorded work: ‘Banjoland’ from Elton John, Clive’s musical prowess on the banjo from Billy Connolly, heartfelt tributes from Mic, then John Bidwell and Mick Bennett, both ex-members of C.O.B. (Clive’s Original Band) plus Ralph McTell and was followed by Clive’s song: ‘Evening Air’ being played over the P.A. with the congregation invited to read the lyrics from the Order Of Service sheets instead of singing along as it was felt that Clive’s unique voice should be clearly heard. Then a beautiful poem especially written for Clive by Bob Devereux, another of Clive’s many old friends and artistic collaborators, was recited by its author.
After a short sermon which was followed by the Committal and Prayers another hymn: ‘Abide With Me’ was sung. Then, with the family in close procession behind it, Clive’s coffin was carried from the Church to the sounds of C.O.B. singing: ‘Wade In The Water’ relayed over the P.A. system. The coffin was then loaded into the hearse for its final journey to Penzance Cemetery where Bill Buchanan played: ‘The Lament For Mary McLeod’ on the bagpipes as the closing prayers were spoken and Clive’s coffin was lowered into the grave.
Mourners gathered in The Yacht Inn to await the return of Gina and her family from the Cemetery and all the usual post service socialising took place as addresses and telephone numbers were exchanged, drinks were quaffed, names were put to faces not seen in many years and folk were happily reacquainted and reunited with one another. Time passed, people began to leave, others formed smaller and smaller groups, the noise and bustle dimmed to more familiar levels and the afternoon dwindled down to evening as the cold grey winter’s sea washed along the shore on this day as it has done for years and will do for years yet to come.
05th December 2014