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RONNIE ROWE’S funeral took place on January 20 at St John’s Church in Birtley, and then at Birtley Crematorium. We set off for a ‘normal’ funeral but how wrong we were! The first realisation of this came as we passed the Birtley Community Fire Station – Ron had been a fireman – where two fire engines were parked on the forecourt and about 10 firemen were standing by the kerbside awaiting the cortège.

Not being quite sure where St John’s was, I asked a gentleman in the street for directions. His immediate reaction was, “Are you going to Ronnie Rowe’s funeral? He did so much for Birtley and, although I can’t get to the funeral, I’ve already paid my respects. He was a great man.” When we got to the church, there was a huge crowd outside, with 25-30 firefighters forming a guard of honour. Inside it was standing room only; I’ve never been to a funeral quite like it. In the crowd outside there were numerous current and former boxers, many of whom had been trained by Ron, including Glenn McCrory. I thought that if a former world champion could stand outside then a former Area chairman certainly could! Among the pall-bearers were trainer Gary Barr and former British cruiserweight champion Jon-Lewis Dickinson. It was a magnificent send-off for a superb man. David Venn

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