Last week’s funeral procession for Steve Medcalf in Withernsea was like nothing else the town had ever seen before.
It was an incredibly moving and fitting send- off for one of the town’s much-loved characters and someone who, for the past 25 years, had selflessly given up his time to help others.
I think we all expected the community to come out in support last Thursday, just as they did in their hundreds at the lifeboat station in the immediate aftermath of Steve’s death – but even so, to see the sheer numbers thronging the prom was astonishing, profoundly affecting and a measure of the regard he was held in.
The procession was organised by the crew at Withernsea RNLI, and, wow – what a job they did. They even managed to pull off a break in the tumultuous weather that day, as the rain and wind all but disappeared and a milky sun shone down on everyone, just for a few hours. Steve’s brother Andy tells me that the presence of three fighter jets, whose engines could be heard faintly rumbling overhead at one point, was a coincidence, but a stirring one nonetheless.
From the moment the crew’s pagers went off at 10.15am that day, Steve’s final journey proceeded without a hitch. The Gazette team was, of course, there too, firstly to pay our respects, but also to cover the event with our cameras.
We wanted primarily to make sure that we could get a record the family would be proud to look back on, but it was difficult not to feel a bit overcome at times, and snapping away continuously as Steve’s coffin made its solemn way to the Pier Towers often didn’t feel quite right. But, as Andy pointed out, it was intended to be a very public occasion, a chance for the town to bid farewell to Steve, and it simply had to be recorded for posterity.
The story was also picked up by some of the nationals, such was the spectacle. But for Steve’s family, friends and colleagues, after the spectacle – this day of intensely high emotions – comes the business of daily life without him, and thoughts turn to ensuring that his legacy lives on.
This will happen in numerous ways – but the biggest tribute will surely be Withernsea’s Blue Light Weekend this August, which will be renamed in honour of Steve. The event, celebrating all of our local emergency services, had already been in the planning for some time and he was, as Andy says, so excited about it. This promises to be a brilliant weekend – it simply has to be, for Steve – and, this time, a far happier spectacle on the prom. “The Gazette will be all over it, won’t you?” Andy said to me.
You bet we will.