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A Cornish bard and ex-Camborne policeman makes final journey in Model T Ford

By bevcoumbe  |  Posted: November 08, 2013

  • Dressed in Cornish tartan and carrying the flag of St Piran, Tony Piper enjoying the atmosphere of Lowender Peran

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A retired police dog handler and Bard of the Gorsedh Kernow fulfilled his last wish being transported in a vintage Model T Ford to his final resting place.

Treswithian crematorium was packed with mourners paying their last respects to the “true son of Kernow”, Tony Piper, 71, affectionately known as 'Pipes'.

The father of two, who was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) 12 months ago, died on October 17.

His widow, Val, described him as “100 per cent Cornish” and a man who regularly attended local events wearing his Cornish kilt with pride.

Preparing for his final ride, Tony contacted local funeral director, Chris Blewett to make his unusual request.

Mr Blewett said: “I first met Tony in 1982 when his beat area included Praze-an-Beeble. He used to patrol on his police motorcycle and regularly used to call in to have a chat. It was at that this time I was restoring my 1924 Model T Ford truck and he took a great interest in the progress.

“Unfortunately his health deteriorated but we kept in touch through Facebook and in September this year he asked if when his time came, could he have the Model T truck as his hearse; he said he had always admired it from his beat days.”

Mr Blewett said he was “privileged” to carry out his friend’s request, adapting and fitting a hearse onto the rear of the Model T and draping a St Piran's flag over his coffin.

Mr Piper retired from the force in 1995 following 30 years working in Fowey, Falmouth, Truro and latterly Camborne.

He was a dog handler for 13 years with members of the unit lining the route to the crematorium in a final salute to their colleague.

His widow said: “He trained as a moulder at Falmouth docks but following a chance meeting in London, with a metropolitan policeman from Falmouth, he decided that was what he wanted to do and he joined the then Cornish Constabulary.”

He went on to earn the Chief Constable’s commendation after making 111 dog arrests in four years, a record that remains unbeaten, she said.

“He loved the police, they were our best years. I was touched by the number of people who attended his funeral and the messages from across the county, it has been a huge help. We were married for 47 years.”

Members of the Gorsedh Kernow paid tribute to Tony, along with Trelawney Alliance who said: “He was a Cornishman and proud to be so, he was a man of the people who worked tirelessly for his county promoting its history and heritage. As the chairman of Celtic Congress he was instrumental in forging cultural links with other Celtic communities.

“A champion of all things Cornish, Tony led from the front. He was passionately proud of his Cornish roots and did all within his power to protect its unique cultural identity.”

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  • TheLazerrat  |  November 12 2013, 9:19PM

    It was a cloudy, blustery, and cold late afternoon at the beautiful new building at Treswithian crematorium for over 200 people to await the arrival of the 'star'. For a 'star', he certainly was! People just kept arriving, the car parking was overflowing onto the grass verges by the front gates and I, along with 20-25 had to listen to the sevice from outside (I, in order to take some photos of the assembled gathering ). Two dog handlers in their best uniforms with brave 'mutts' by their side, stood proudly in the wind for over an hour on either side of the approach road to the Chapel. The next thing I saw, coming round the bend from the top of the knoll was what I can only describe as a brightly painted ancient Model T Ford flatbed truck (someone will tell me what it really was), carrying a coffin draped in the flag of St Pirran and a bobby's helmet. As the 'hearse' rounded the final bend before passing the dogs, the helmet was blown off the coffin and onto the road. The driver's assistant jumped out of the cab and replaced the helmet onto the casket and Tony passed his erstwhile canine colleagues and handlers who stood, with heads bowed, together with a highly respected Newquay Sergeant in full number one uniform. The dog handlers, courageously, remained at their post for a further 10 minutes or so after the service had begun. I know this because as soon as the service commenced, both dogs started barking as if to say their own farewell. I stood in that cold wind, listening to the service through the loudspeakers outside as the tributes were paid. My admiration and respect goes primarily to his daughter, Victoria, whose fortitude and bravery to do what she did on such a day, was inspirational! A dear old comrade in arms of mine and Tony's, relayed a few of the many hilarious episodes that 'Pipes' got up to in the good old days of 'being a good old British BOBBY'. The service over, more than 200 people emerged from the chapel into the dark, chanting OGGY, OGGY, OGGY, OI OI OI, almost everyone attired in a Cornish kilt, or tie, or carrying the black and white flag of St Pirran to repair to the Lowenac Hotel in Camborne for the wake. The food was laid out for us? Cornish cream teas, saffron cake, and Cornish pasties !!! I'll finish this on a spooky note: Two people who were inside the chapel (and one was his daughter) told me about seeing a white dove in the rafters as they were leaving. I do believe Tony was there 'havin' a laugh' and saying a final goodbye. As someone said during the service, "He'd have been pretty p*ssed off that he couldn't have been here himself" Well maybe he was! Rest In Peace Tony. Respect. Addendum; There are a pair of white doves that have taken up residence in that fine building, but that, as they say, is another story for another day.

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