Hundreds join tribute to Bristol Rovers legend Denis Dunford in Keynsham

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By JoannaPazucha | Thursday, January 26, 2012, 10:10

By Keynsham People. ROVERS players and managers past and present were among the hundreds of people who gathered at St John's Church in Keynsham to say their final farewell to club legend and "true gentleman" Denis Dunford.

Former Pirates bosses Ian Holloway, Gerry Francis and Paul Trollope joined mourners at the funeral of the much-loved former club chairman, who died this month, aged 89.

There was standing room only at the church yesterday as Mr Dunford's coffin, adorned with Rovers and RAF floral tributes, was carried in to the sound of Moonlight Serenade by Glenn Miller.

The Reverend Simon Howell, who conducted the service, told the congregation Mr Dunford was a "great Bristolian" and considered to be one of the most well-respected people in sport and business in the city.

Between hymns Be Thou My Vision and Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, Mr Dunford's remarkable life story was told by his son Geoff, also a former Rovers chairman, and his grandson Peter.

Geoff told how his father had become a flying instructor with the RAF during the Second World War.

He filled the church with laughter when he recounted how his father had even accidently released bombs from a Wellington bomber on a runway during a practice run.

Rovers director Geoff explained how his dad had later started a dairy business in Cadbury Heath, working long days and playing in a band in the evenings.

He said the highly-successful family firm went from selling 25 gallons of milk in the early days to 35,000 gallons, serving homes across the South West.

Holding back tears, Geoff said: "God bless you, Dad. You were the best and we love you so much."

Peter told how his grandfather, who he knew as Paps, saved Rovers from financial ruin when he took over as chairman in the 1980s.

He said: "He brought many people together to fight and save our football club. He was never paid a penny for all this hard work as chairman for nearly 20 years."

He added that his grandfather had a great sense of humour and "always had a quick quip or an anecdote".

Peter said: "I know he was famous in Bristol but to me he was just Paps."

Before mourners filed out of the church to Gasheads' favourite Goodnight Irene following the 45-minute service, the Reverend John Samways told the congregation that those associated with Rovers often "melted" when they met Mr Dunford.

He said: "If they had been wearing a cap they would have doffed it to him.

"He won the hearts of everyone who met him, whatever their station in life."

He added: "Many of you have said that Denis Dunford is Bristol Rovers."

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