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Death of Bonfire Boy Norman Funnell from Lewes, aged 86

Paraffin in his blood: Norman Funnell never missed a single Bonfire Night and  was proud to be Lewes born and bred

Paraffin in his blood: Norman Funnell never missed a single Bonfire Night and was proud to be Lewes born and bred

Cliffe Bonfire Society in Lewes has lost one of its leading lights.

Norman Funnell, a stalwart all his life, died at the age of 86 at The Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath after a short illness.

He was a Bonfire Boy through and through – with “paraffin in his blood”.

Mr Funnell was born into Cliffe like his father and grandfather before him.

The latter remembered the riots of the 1850s which were the roots of the November 5 celebrations the town knows today. He never missed Bonfire Night and last year there were four generations of his family on the streets.

He was Chairman of Cliffe Bonfire Society in the late 1950s and was a former Captain of Effigies and Captain of Tableaux.

Mr Funnell, who was fiercely proud of being a Lewesian, was born in Malling Street and his final years were spent a stone’s throw away at St Thomas’ Court.

He started his working life at the age of 14 when he was apprenticed to a local undertakers, preparing coffin boards.

His talents in working with wood swiftly developed and he had a successful career as cabinet maker and carpenter. He also worked as a wheelwright. He put those talents to good use in making tableaux for the society.

That expertise was particularly welcomed in the post-war years when, with his father Charlie, he helped to pass on his skills and knowledge. He has been credited as being among the early pioneers who developed the society’s famous Viking costumes.

A widower, Mr Funnell leaves two children, four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

The funeral is taking place at St Thomas’ Church in the Cliffe on Thursday, June 5 (11.30am) and will be followed by private cremation.

 

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