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Posted by: Farmer White
Date: 07/02/2018 22:00
I attended Mike Coggin’s funeral. It will remain long in the memory. I doubt the memory will ever go. For anyone who was not at the funeral and would like to know a bit more about the day here is how I experienced it:

I knew it would be something special as I walked through Goodland Gardens. I wasn’t the only one walking with a purpose. As I reached the bridge and crossed the road towards St James’ Street I saw a sight I have not seen before. Among the usual mix of people going about their business were numbers of suited men and smartly dressed women all walking with a similar purpose. Some followed on from behind me, others from along North Street and more still from the Station Road direction. Others were already walking along St James’ Street with that same earnest purpose. All slightly bent into their walk for all the world like the crowd heading for Burnden Park in L.S. Lowry’s ‘Going to the Match’. I will never think of that great painting again without remembering that day.

I caught up with a man who turned to me and said, “It’s like it all over the town centre. You don’t have to ask where they are all going do you?” He didn’t say who “they” were or where they were going. He didn’t need to. Neither did either of us need to ask where the other was going. We just walked together in silence to the ground. There the people who had come past the church joined the ones who had come from Canon Street and we formed one group who passed through the ground past the Caddick Pavilion to see others coming through the Priory Bridge Road gate.

It was clear to me by this time I would be standing for the ceremony and I was, I and about 150 or more others squeezed in at the back of the scoreboard end of the County Room and along the windows. Another 250 were seated.

The coffin was carried up the Colin Atkinson Pavilion terrace opposite the bar and into the room to the strains of the Test Match Special theme. The pall bearers were Marcus Trescothick, James Hildreth, Peter Trego, Andy Caddick, Keith Parsons and Rob Turner. As far as I could tell every other current squad player who was in the country lined the wall opposite the windows. Members of the Club staff were in attendance including Lee Cooper who stood in the crush at the back with the rest of us.

The ceremony started on the stroke of eleven when at another time of the year the umpires might have called “Play”. A pint of cider was placed on the coffin for the duration of the service. The weather outside, at least from behind glass, looked perfect for batting. There were tributes from two friends. Richard Parsons paid a short finely judged tribute and the Club Chaplain read one on behalf of the family.

I can recall a time when I did not know Mike Coggin. I can recall the time when I did. I cannot quite recall how or when the one turned into the other. What I am fairly sure of is it would have started with him ‘pulling my leg’. I would have responded in kind and the joust would have been underway. I cannot recall who most often had the last word but I don’t remember it ever having been me. I can also say I am a richer man spiritually from having known him and a poorer one financially for having not avoided him when he was collecting for some cause or other. I have a Somerset tie I have owned for over forty years and when I wear a Somerset tie I wear no other. Whatever possessed me to buy a James Hildreth benefit tie from Mike Coggin I will never know.

The ceremony was a warm and gentle event that was Somerset through and through. I doubt any of us who knew Mike Coggin, and I only knew him through Somerset cricket and only at the cricket, could quite believe he would soon be leaving the ground for the last time. As the ceremony ended I saw someone who posts on here and with whom I talk much at the cricket. We spoke but briefly as we walked outside for nothing really needed to be said and we were both deep in thought for a giant of Somerset cricket had just ended his innings.

The pall bearers carried the coffin back through the doors and down the terrace this time to the singing of ‘Blackbird’’. The hearse waited just beyond the boundary edge. It slowly made its way from the ground through a guard of honour of the pall bearers and the first team squad holding bats aloft in salute and to applause from the 400 mourners which continued undiminished until Mike Coggin had left the ground. Players who come to Somerset often remark the Club feels like a family. On this day you knew what they meant.

The first day of the season will not feel quite the same this year but Mike Coggin will be there in the minds of those whose cricket watching days he blessed with that impish smile, warm welcome and gentle disarming pull of the leg.

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