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Romford Pictures: Fond farewell for former coachman, who travels on final journey with shire horse team

12:00 01 February 2014

Coachman David Lawless with the Shire horses

Coachman David Lawless with the Shire horses

Archant

A former Lord Mayor of London coachman was given a fitting farewell at his funeral on Tuesday, with a six-strong team of shire horses pulling his traditional hearse.

The horse drawn carriage arrives at the cemetryThe horse drawn carriage arrives at the cemetry

The life of much-loved John Lawless, 67, was marked by 200 relatives and friends at the South Essex Crematorium, where his hearse was taken by horses Comet, Harvey, Boy, Edward, Henry and William, after setting out from the Harwood Hall Livery Stables.

The Hornchurch man, who was the official coachman for 22 years, had a special connection with the animals as they draw the Lord Mayor’s coach every November.

John’s son David, 37, has now taken up the reins and drove the hearse to the funeral himself.

He said: “I was very pleased that we fulfilled his wishes for the funeral by having the six magnificent shires that he wanted. It was a fitting farewell.”

The late John Lawless driving the Lord Mayor of London's coach in his role as official coachmanThe late John Lawless driving the Lord Mayor of London's coach in his role as official coachman

John was just 25 when he first drove the Lord Mayor’s coach in 1971 – which made him the youngest person to do so.

His two decades of service meant he became the longest-serving coachman.

John was also the head horseman at the Whitbread and Co Brewery, London, for 25 years.

David, who lives in Cambridgeshire with his wife Elspeth and sons Ben, seven, and Toby, six, added: “I am proud to be following in his footsteps.”

Coachman David Lawless with the Shire horses at the crematoriumCoachman David Lawless with the Shire horses at the crematorium

Elspeth, 47, met David through knowing John from the horse circuit. She knew John for about 30 years.

She said: “He was very cheerful. If he was in a room he was the life and soul of the party, which was shown by how many people were there at the funeral.”

As well as David and his grandchildren, John leaves behind a widow Vivien and daughter Sarah.

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