From the 'Suffolk Free Press' of Thursday 9 March 1967


They made the last trip a night to remember

By Valerie Farthing

We join the mourners as they slowly march - with police escort - from North Street car park, Sudbury, through the town on their way to the station.

The bearers proudly carried a coffin bearing the legend "R.I.P. - Stour Valley Railway Line 1867-1967" - while the drummer solemnly beat the big bass drum.

Before they had gone 100 yards the drumstick head fell off in the road, and was returned to the drummer by a respectfully mournful police sergeant.

Many Sudbury mourners joined the procession, some offerring comfort to the tearful 'widow' Dorothy Hart, others removing their hats and bowing their heads out of respect.

Both platforms at Sudbury Station were thronged with local people waiting for the last train to Cambridge to blow its final whistle of departure. Before the funeral party boarded the train one of the wreaths was ceremonially presented to the engine driver, Sidney Wacey, by chairman of Sudbury Railway Action Committee, Mr Geoff Kisby, supported by their legal advisor Mr Alan Phillips and Mr Dick Bromley.


As the train pulled out of the station the people of Sudbury waved a mournful farewell to the crack and flash of fireworks being thrown from the window of the four coach diesel train.

Once on their way the 'body' in the coffin showed animated signs of life when the casket was opened to reveal ample beer, sherry and sandwiches to make the wake very enjoyable for all around.

At Cavendish the train gained an unwilling passenger, Mrs Marjorie Winch, wife of local solicitor and Haverhill Round Tabler, Mr David Winch.

"I only came down to cry because I used the train, and left my two children at home", said Mrs Winch, but after reassuring words of comfort from her husband she determined to join in the frolics until the next station. From Clare she 'thumbed' her way home again.

While gaining one passenger at Cavendish, several others left the train. They were led by retired schoolmistress Miss I. G. Perry, leader of Cavendish Brownies, 12 of whom were taking the last trip with her.


For 40 years Miss Perry said she had used the line almost daily to get to and from Sudbury, and further afield to visit her only two relatives.

"I fought the closure every inch of the way, and I just do not know what I will do without it", added Miss Perry in a heartfelt cry of distress over the closure of the line.

For 34 years Miss Perry taught at Sudbury High School, and since moving to Cavendish in 1938 she has used the train with unerring regularity. The reason she had a bungalow built at Cavendish was because of the station there, she added.

Still wearing his porter's uniform, Mr Norman Keith Poole and his wife Joy took a last sentimental journey on the train.

They told me in their view the line should never have been closed particularly in view of the expansion at Haverhill. Both used the line regularly to visit relatives at Spalding. Now Mr Poole has lost his job as a porter at Sudbury and has found local employment outside the railway industry.

When Haverhill Round Tablers joined the train at Haverhill, there were about 200 people crowded onto the station to watch the train leave. They too solemnly marched with their coffin to the guards van and bundled inside.

However, when they heard that Sudbury Round Tablers had beer in their coffin in the other guards van they stood by to disembark at the next station and race down the train to join their counterparts from down the line.


Dressed in hunting pink with a master's horn, one of the Round Tablers from Haverhill struck a colourful note in dress and music as he joined the other mourners, who included two 'Reverend Gentlemen'.

At every station or halt the cortege raced out of every carriage and did a very short lap of honour before tearing back to the guards van and scrambling in as the whistle was blown.

Among those who took a one way trip from Sudbury to Cambridge were a group of university students, and a party of 23 ramblers.

Leader of the Rambling Club was Mr Roger Wolfe who said the discontinuation of the Cambridge-Sudbury rail service would cut off a grat deal of "excellent walking country".

Like myself many of those taking the 'death ride' were making their first and last trip on the train, but among the revellers and mourners were many legitimate travellers who were using the line for the purpose it was meant - to get from one point to the other.

One of these who was taken aback when the two funeral parties disboarded at Cambridge was a Melford man who had been using the train every Saturday to get home for the weekend.

Mr Renford Sargent, of 1 Cordell Road, Long Melford, asked what was happening when he saw the revellers pile out of the train at platform 3 Cambridge Station.

When I told him it was the last train, he looked at me with astonishment and said he had come down to get the train home as usual and had not realised it would be his last trip.


An ironic twist to this tale was provided when Mr Sargent explained he was manager of a Cambridge Travel agency who dealt with Premier Travel Ltd. Although not included in the alternative bus timetables Premier Travel operate services between Haverhill and Cambridge.

The funeral entourage left the train with great dignity at Cambridge and began to march along the platform, but as they passed the station bar their numbers diminished rapidly.

Joining the train at Cambridge for the return journey was conductor-guard Alfred Bird, who has been with British Rail nearly 46 years.

"Its a wicked sin, and they engineered it, nothing else", declared Mr Bird of the rail closure. Mr Bird, who lives at Sudbury, will be working at Colchester in future, has travelled up and down the line for 30 years.

Sudbury Round Tablers had their numbers whittled at Haverhill on the return journey when Haverhill Round Table abducted Mr A. Moore, Sudbury borough councillor.

In spite of a struggle and a gallant rescue attempt by other tablers, Mr Moore and one of his 'rescuers', Mr Colin Scrivener, remained in the hands of the captors as the train pulled out of the station.

Plastered across parts of Haverhill Station were 'Sale Today' notices, and before boarding the train earlier in the evening the Round Table held a mock auction at which they sold the station for the grand sum of 10s. Another notice read - "Haverhill this station died of starvation".

A salute of fog detonators greeted the train as it rolled into Melford Station and at Ballingdon the driver had to take it slowly across the bridge as there were bonfires on the embankment, toilet rolls strewn across the track and Round Tabler John Sayers took the opportunity of spraying the passengers with water.

Eventually the revellers arrived back at Sudbury, shaken after the rough and tumble of a rail journey crowded in a small guards van.


As we disembarked Mr Hicks of Sudbury began playing the 'Last Post' from the footbridge across the line and the coffin was once more drummed off the train and solemnly marched down the station approach, with fireworks exploding all round.

Everyone then repaired to the Prince of Wales Public House for the wake, where the 'widow' said a tearful goodbye as the coffin lay in state in the saloon bar, draped with a Union Jack.

The final fling to the funeral of the line came when an anonymous mourner hung one of the floral wreaths round the neck of the statue of Thomas Gainsborough on Sudbury Market Hill.


From the 'East Anglian Daily Times' of Monday 6 March 1967 (which covered the same story but added the following)


The Rev Brian Bird of Edwardstone, who took a prominent part in scenes at the 1965 enquiry, and who has been making last minute deputations to Transport Minister, Mrs Barbera Castle, was not present yesterday. Neither was Long Melford man, Mr Dennis Taylor, who on the eve of the closure claimed he knew how to save British Railways £30,000 per day, who is expected to launch a campaign to re-open the line.

Asked last night why he did not travel on the train, Mr Taylor said from his Long Melford home: "I was flatly disgusted. If the people who travelled on the train had expended but a quarter of their energy in an attempt to save the line, which has now been closed quite illegally, we would still have a rail link with Cambridge.

"They sat on their backsides doing nothing for two years and then went beserk like that. That coffin in the train might well now be someone's coffin from Melford who cannot get to Cambridge Hospital", he added.

Mr Bird felt the same way about the funeral, and felt Sudbury's attitude was: "Blow you Jack, we are all right".