Bateson: Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

By Barry Newcombe, SJA Chairman
Bill Bateson provided a typically robust send off at his funeral in Truro yesterday, with a message which he wrote for the service.

Under the headline “Last orders”, Bateson’s message to mourners, written in August, began: “Ahoy there, and thanks for coming to see me off. I know it’s a bit of a corny cliché to talk about a ‘celebration’ of anyone’s time on this planet but I honestly hope there are no tears — and plenty of cheers today.”

Having setting the tone, the service continued and prompted one of the congregation of Bill’s many friends to describe it as “the most incredible funeral I have ever attended”.

The packed congregation at the Penmount Crematorium behaved as Bateson had suggested: there was plenty of laughter and few tears as they bade farewell to the former sports editor of the News of the World there and and later at his most recently adopted local, the Red Lion at Mawnan Smith.

Bateson’s coffin, carried by fellow journalists, came in to the crematorium to the theme music from Match of the Day, and the first speaker, David Norrie, with an Arsenal scarf around his neck, discussed one of Bill’s chief sporting loves under the title “Good Old Arsenal”.

Tom Clarke, another former Fleet Street sports editor, read “The Next Place” and then Fred Burcombe, Bill’s right-hand man for more than 20 years, gave a detailed account of Bateson’s career at the News of the World which was gripping enough until the surprise final stage.

Burcombe revealed that when Bateson left the News of the World, he did so by the rear door rather than the front. Indeed, the print workers were ready to “bang out” Bateson in time-honoured manner, but were unable to do so because he had slipped away.

So Burcombe invited the congregation to do the job and the crematorium thundered to the noise as one of Fleet Street’s oldest traditions was observed, a little late maybe and in an unusual setting. The final song at the service was Gracie Fields singing Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye, ensuring Bill was providing the laughs, and a tear or two, to the end.

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