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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dudley remembers Duncan Edwards

On February 21st 1958 Duncan Edwards lost his final battle. He survived the plane crash for 15 days but eventually his injuries were just too much for him to survive. 50 years later on, on a cold, dark and damp Black Country morning over 700 people braved the weather to attend his memorial in Dudley town centre.

The service of thanksgiving was organised by Sean Coughlan, a council officer and loyal United fan, but this wasn’t just about Manchester United, it was about a town celebrating the life of one of its most famous sons. This wasn’t a day when we were afraid our local rivals would wreck the minutes silence nor was it purely a day when United fans remembered one of their legends... this was a day football fans came together to pay their respects.

Of course there were many scarf wearing United fans there, some like myself had travelled down from Manchester, some from all parts of the Midlands and some who had travelled up from London and the South Coast. There were even a few that had arrived back from Lyon at 3:00 am that morning, but amongst every United fan there were 2 or 3 fans from other clubs, I saw West Brom, Wolves, Aston Villa and Walsall scarves and I’m sure there were many more sprinkled amongst the crowd.

Underneath the Duncan Edwards statue the crowd sang Abide with Me and then the Mayor of Dudley ,David Stanley, read from Sirach 44 verses 1-8 and 14-15.

Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations.
The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning
Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation

How fitting those verses are

Reverend Geoff Johnston, priest of St Francis , the Edwards family church, spoke of Duncan as a boy. Stories of how he loved his food, his competitive sporting spirit and the occasion when he and his mates found a crate of lemonade outside and decided to nick one each. He told of Duncan’s popularity, not only with fellow children but with the teaching staff at his schools and the story of the day Duncan and his mates bunked off school to go and play snooker. Of course they were found out and the next morning ordered to the headmaster’s office to be caned. However, upon seeing Edwards there the Head Master decided that a stern telling off would suffice. He also told of how the gentle giant would return from Manchester on public transport and pop round the off licence to get his parents a beer or things have changed.

Maurice Watkins represented the club and laid a wreath along with family and friends. Also in attendance was Jimmy Murphy Jnr, who was 15 years old at the time of Munich and remembers Big Dunc as a colossus of a man with a smile that illuminated the room.

Following this we were asked to honour the big man with a minutes applause, today we were not there to mourn the passing of a young man but to celebrate the joy he brought to all those who were touched by his life.

As a Manchester United fan who has been brought up on the history of the “babes” it was paramount that I should attend this, but what was so pleasing was the response of fans from other clubs and of course the local community.....Dudley did their son proud today.



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