Cliff Morgan's funeral took place on the Isle of Wight today
He came in to the strains of 'Take me Home' and exited to a thunderous rendition of 'We'll keep a welcome in the hillside'. In between, the story of Cliff Morgan's remarkable life was brought to life by Gareth Edwards, Max Boyce, Nigel Starmer-Smith and his son, Nick.
The service at Holy Trinity, Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight, turned into a fantastic celebration of an iconic Welshman who died on 29 August at the age of 83. From his humble beginnings in the Rhondda mining village of Trebanog, Cliff Morgan first became a global sporting superstar and then a broadcasting legend.
All aspects of his life were amply celebrated in front of a packed, 500-strong congregation at the local church on the island that had been his home for the past nine years and they hung on every word, story and hymn sung by the London Welsh Male Voice Choir.
The service may have taken place in Bembridge, but his wife Pat's meticulous planning meant it wouldn't have been out of place in any Welsh chapel in any Welsh valley.
The Welsh Rugby Union president, Denis Gethin, and chief executive, Roger Lewis, led the cast of mourners from Wales, that also included great names from the past such as Barry John, David Watkins, John Taylor, Geoff Evans, Trevor Brewer, Gerald Davies, Clive Rowlands, Lloyd Williams and the man who had played as his scrum half in the Welsh Schools Under 18 team in 1948, Goronwy Morgan.
The President of the RFU, Bob Reeves was joined by the 1971 British & Irish Lion, David Duckham and Cliff's 1955 Lions Test centre, Phil Davies, in leading the tribute from England, while Bective Rangers, the Dublin-based club for whom Cliff played for one season in 1954/55, sent their President and chairman.
Everyone wanted to be there and een those who couldn't make it, like the legendary 'Grandstand' broadcaster David Coleman, found some way to be a part of the tribute.
"David simply wasn't well enough to make the trip to the Isle of Wight. He was distraught at missing the funeral, but instead went to his own church at 12 noon to join with us," explained Cliff's son, Nick.
Mary Peters, the 1972 Olympic gold medallist, arrived from Belfast wearing a red hat that Cliff had bought her and a heart shaped broach that had been a Christmas present from him.
Dickie Davies, of ITV World of Sport Fame, was joined by former BBC head of sport Paul Fox and Des Lynham also turned up to pay his respects to "my inspiration and hero".
It was left to Gareth Edwards, the man who scored the great try for the Barbarians against New Zealand in 1973 that Cliff immortalised with his magnificent commentary, to talk about 'The Rugby Man', while Max Boyce penned a new poem, 'I Wear the Cloth of Parting Ways', to describe Cliff 'The Welshman'.
"I never saw Cliff play, but I met him in Cardiff when I was 12 and asked for his autograph. It wasn't just a mere scribble, he asked me who it was for, where I was from and where I was going," said Gareth.
"Little did I know then that our lives would become so entwined later on in my life. I remember when I played in my first Welsh trial as a teenager I didn't do very well and was pretty despondent.
"But writing in the News of the World the next day Cliff said that while I might not play on the next Welsh international, I would go on to win dozens of welsh caps. That was good enough for me and made me feel a lot better.
"I toured South Africa twice with the British Lions and I don't think a day went by on either tour when someone didn't mention the 1955 tourists and Cliff Morgan. They idolised him there."
In outlining Cliff's rich and varied career in broadcasting the former England scrum half, and Rugby Special colleague, Nigel Starmer-Smith, described him as a brilliant broadcaster.
"There was always that incredible voice that resonated from the valleys and the Rhondda. He had humour, sympathy and passion," said Nigel. "As Cliff always said, as a commentator you've got to ' hot it up a bit, gild the lilly'. He did it all brilliantly."
One of Cliff's radio producers, Cardiff-born Peter Griffiths, ut together a briliant montage of rdio clips from Cliff's career. In that he told the story of how his mother knocked herself out on the stove at home after hearing her son had been picked to play for Wales.
"She heard it on the wireless befoe the letter arrived from the WRU. She was so overwhelmed tht she hit her head in the kitchen," recalled Cliff.
"On the Sunday before I played there were prayers in the local church for a good performance from me and neighbours kept dropping in to give me eggs and sherry and other things to help build me up for the big day.
It was a life to remember and service that will live long in the memory of everyone who was there. As WRU Pesident, Dennis Gethin, said: "What an incredible tribute to an incredible Welshman" - enough said!
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