This item appeared on the blog of Paul Flynn M.P at http://paulflynnmp.typepad.com/ It was flagged up to me by Ifor the webmaster for Fochriw. I am grateful to Paul and his wife Lynne Samantha [Cumpstone] for permission to use the photographs opposite.
January 14, 2010 Doug Cumpstone - eulogy
(Doug's funeral service was held in St Mary's St. Baptist Chapel Newport today, the place where he married Elsie in 1952. This is the eulogy delivered)
'Doug Cumpstone had a great life. We mourn his loss but applaud his virtues. He was devoted husband, brother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. To many here today he was a precious best friend, a comrade, a colleague. He was not just a father-in-law to me, he has been a daily practical and emotional life support service for my family for the past 25 years.
He was born on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1927, and was named Douglas after Douglas Haig. He was the only boy in his class in Fochriw who did not want to be a train driver. He left school at 14, missing out of the educational advantages available to future generations. In the war he was drafted into work of national importance, which was either mining or driving trains. Wisely he opted to be a train driver in London and Newport.
In a stroke of good fortune, he married war widow Elsie Bott in this chapel in 1952. She lived in St Edwards St with her young son Brian. The valley boy and the beautiful kind Newport girl enjoyed 40 years of married happiness, blessed with the birth of Lynne Samantha. It was a contented family of shared respect and love. Doug was Mr. ‘Aslef’ to me. For decades he represented train drivers on the Local District Committee. He was an instinctive socialist and trade unionist, proud of his record in supporting fellow workers in struggle. With Doug’s leadership, his Aslef branch played a brave role in supporting the miners strike. He was a stalwart lifelong member of the family of the Newport Labour Party. For a decade he chaired with distinction the Stow Hill Ward Branch.
Doug was the Good Samaritan of Llwynderi Road. He generously gave his time to help his neighbours with innumerable acts of kindness and practical help, including gardening, household chores, clearing the rubbish and providing lifts.
Richard Frame recalls his work for the charities NASH and SOLAS. He writes: ‘Doug was a fantastic gentleman who rarely had a bad word to say about anyone. He came to NASH via the soup run which he operated with Sam. He never missed a duty and always had a friendly word with staff and clients. Doug was brilliant and was able to put at ease those unfortunate people we met sleeping rough on the streets.. With his SOLAS partner Clare, he was a great ambassador for vulnerable people. Doug always felt that other people were smarter than him, but that wasn't true. He was greatly respected with a wealth of experience and knowledge from his full life. I never tired of hearing his anecdotes about the V2s rockets in London and about the days of steam trains. The staff of SOLAS always had real confidence that fair play would always be paramount when Doug was involved.’ Richard concludes that “ Doug reminded me of Alexander Cordell. He was an old fashion gentleman, someone that everyone was always pleased to see."
Sam and the family were grateful to SOLAS for the heart warming surprise birthday party they arranged for Doug's 80th birthday. He was touched by the lavish praise heaped on him by his fellow volunteers. Until the final year, Doug enjoyed exceptional health and strength. I was astonished to see 20 foot up in a tree in my garden sawing off a branch. He was then 80 years old.
But the Cumpstones are a tough breed. Doug's Uncle Idris was shot in the First World War. Luckily they only hit him in the heart. He was sent off to a Jerusalem hospital to die. Typical of the Cumpstone’s awkward streak, he refused to co-operate and made a full recovery with the bullet still lodged in his heart. He died eventually, of course, at the age of 96. He had insisted that the bullet be removed so his relatives would know that he had been telling them the truth all those years. The bullet is now a prized family possession!
Two years ago, Sam and I went with Doug and his companion and best friend Patricia Derritt to the home of the Cumpstone tribe in Ambleside in the Lake District. We stayed in the Cumpston Hotel, Cumpston Road. He also relished a bit of globetrotting with visits to France, Italy and Germany. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
I don’t want to claim that he was a paragon of virtue. Anyone who had travelled in a car that he was driving would know that he wasn’t. His mission was to educate all road-users on the finer points of the Highway Code. His driving technique was one hand on the wheel and the other closed in a fist, ready to shake at other drivers. Sam developed a technique of sliding down in the passenger seat to become invisible to the pedestrians that he sent scurrying out of his way. I don't know what day he gave Cerys Matthews a lift, but he was definitely the inspiration for song recorded in TJs, 'You give me road rage.'
He was a great Welsh patriot. He loved speaking the Welsh language of his childhood, giving full emphasis to the sonorous beauty of the tongue. He loved Welsh hymns. His joy was walking the hills of the Brecon Beacons. When Wales won in sport, there was no happier person in the whole country. Doug had a commanding presence. Tall, handsome, immaculately dressed with a beautiful deep voice. He and his father closely resembled the actor Anthony Quinn.
He was man of culture, who derived pleasure from the beauty of poetry, a knowledge of history and a love of music from Beethoven to the Beegees- His life was illuminated by the arrival of his three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Doug was touched when he heard that his fourth great grandchild born in August was named Elsie after his wife who died in 1992. ‘If this one is as good as my Elsie’ he said ‘ she’ll have nothing to worry about.’ He bore his final illness with good humoured patience and stoicism. He was lovingly consoled and cared for in his final days by Sam, Pat and the family.
Doug was silently proud of the life he had built for himself. From the impoverished days of the war he and Elsie built a secure, prosperous loving home for their growing family. Doug expressively recited the poetry of Dylan Thomas in the melodious accent of the Rhymney Valley.
And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.
Doug Cumpstone was a man of compassion, principle and character. He was a greatly respected, appreciated and loved. It was a privilege and a joy to share our lives with him.'
Rest in peace, Comrade.