HUNDREDS of mourners filled Hexham Abbey yesterday to pay their last respects to a former town mayor.
The funeral of Barry Pickering, who was mayor of Hexham and who also served at all levels of local government, took place yesterday.
Coun Pickering died on November 17 aged 70 after a battle with cancer.
Leading the tributes at Coun Pickering’s funeral was the current leader of Tynedale Council, Michael Walton, who said that future generations of the town would have a lot to thank Coun Pickering for. He added: “They may not know what it was that Barry did, but we will, and that is enough.”
Coun Walton also read the poem Funeral Blues by WH Auden, made famous in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, which was requested by Mr Pickering as a gift to his partner Tony Davidson. Current Mayor of Hexham, Coun JB Jonas, who served as Mr Pickering’s deputy, also gave a reading at the service.
Over the past decade, Coun Pickering served on Northumberland County Council, Tynedale Council and Hexham Town Council.
He was appointed a member of Tynedale Council’s new cabinet, but immediately resigned from the post because of his illness.
He is credited with being the driving force behind Hexham’s success in the 2005 Britain in Bloom competition and was one of the main reasons it was named England’s favourite market town by Country Life magazine.
Hymns sung at his funeral, led by Canon Graham Usher, rector of Hexham, included Lord of all Hopefulness and I Vow to Thee My Country. A collection taken at the funeral will be donated to Macmillan Nursing, Tynedale Community Hospice and the St Wilfred’s Centre Project at the request of Coun Pickering.
Coun Pickering, who ran the Riverside Leisure caravan park with his partner Mr Davidson for 25 years, announced that he was suffering from the disease three months ago.
The couple formed a civil partnership with a ceremony in Langley Castle earlier this year.
Among the messages of congratulations then was a bowl of orchids from Sir Elton John and his partner, David Furnish.
However, Coun Pickering was taken ill shortly after the ceremony and was seldom seen in public afterwards.