Dignity, respect and love as a man caught in the middle is laid to rest
THERE are more important things to people than politics. Yesterday, some of them shone through at a quiet village church in the heart of England. Real things such as dignity, grace, personal respect and an aching love for a lost husband and father.
When they buried David Kelly, the unseemly feud which is thought to have cost him his life was put on hold, for a few hours at least. It was neither the time nor the place for playing politics. It was the time to lay the man to rest.
They say that the Baha'i faith, to which the 59-year-old weapons expert had turned in recent years, places great stock upon an afterlife where the soul is treated better in heaven than the body was on Earth. That surely would be no more than Dr Kelly deserved.
Janice, his widow, and their three daughters had politely - but very firmly - appealed for yesterday's funeral service to be as private as possible. It was. Only one television crew, Sky News, and one news agency, the Press Association, were present to record the event in the village of Longworth, barely two miles from the spot on Harrowdown Hill where Dr Kelly met his death.
Shortly before 2pm, the cortege entered the grounds of the 13th-century St Mary's Church. Six pallbearers, all family, carried the coffin, draped in white flowers, inside. Behind them walked Mrs Kelly, supported by Sian, 32, her eldest daughter, and twins, Ellen and Rachel, 30.
If there was any requirement for added poignancy, then it was provided surely by the fact that one of the last occasions when the whole family attended St Mary's was for Rachel's wedding just a few months ago.
With the Union Jack flying at half-mast from the clocktower, a lone mourning bell tolled as the sombre procession made its way up the wreath-lined path and into the church. At precisely the same time, church bells in other parts of the country tolled as a mark of respect. Some tolled 59 times, one for each year of Dr Kelly's life.
Around 160 mourners were seated in the church. Among them was Lord Hutton, the judge who is heading the inquiry into Dr Kelly's believed suicide, and, representing the government, was John Prescott, deputy prime minister, who only the day before had to contact Mrs Kelly and apologise for a Downing Street aide's insensitive "Walter Mitty" remark about her husband.
Geoff Hoon, defence secretary, kept to his decision to go on a family holiday in America rather than attend the funeral.
Villagers, some who knew the dead man and some who did not, turned out to pay their respects, standing outside the church gates with service sheets in their hands.
Though the service itself was said to have been essentially Christian, and led by the Rev Roy Woodhams, the local vicar, there were some aspects which reflected Dr Kelly's Baha'i beliefs. It is understood that the family included a prayer from a selection made by followers at the doctor's local Baha'i religious centre in Abingdon.
Tom Mangold, the journalist and close friend of Dr Kelly, emerged from the church to say that his widow and her daughters had remained "pale and stoic" throughout the funeral.
"It was a very dignified service. It was a beautiful service. It was quiet, it was gentle and in every way reflected the man," he said.
The choice of a Welsh hymn, Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah, reflected Dr Kelly's pride in his roots in the Rhondda Valley. "It showed how closely he maintained his Welsh roots. He preferred being called Dai to David," said Mr Mangold.
A poem by Wilfred Hawe-Nurse, a Longworth poet who used to live at Dr Kelly's Westfield House in the village of Southmoor, was also read to the congregation.
Then, after another hymn, came a reading from Matthew chapter five: "How blessed are those of a gentle spirit who shall have the earth for their possession. How blessed are the peacemakers, God shall call them his sons."
Mr Mangold added: "These are the things with which I can identify David very easily." He said the vicar told the mourners: "We are here because of the tragedy that has taken place. We are not here for the media or to make a political statement or to apportion blame."
After the service, Dr Kelly's coffin was carried to the church graveyard where, under the mid-afternoon shadow of the church itself, he was finally laid to rest.
Ironically, the very place where his body was found, wrist slashed and an open packet of painkillers lying nearby, can be seen in the distance from the graveyard.
Following the family's appeal for complete privacy, Thames Valley police sealed off the entire village of Longworth as well as the road outside the Kelly's family home in neighbouring Southmoor.
If there is a war between the government and the BBC over the Iraq dossier affair, they buried the innocent victim of collateral damage in a quiet corner of St Mary's churchyard yesterday afternoon.
* The Herald respected the Kelly family's wishes for privacy yesterday and did not send a reporter or photographer to the funeral.
- Aug 7th
©Copyright 2003, The Herald (UK)
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