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Last Updated: Friday, 19 September, 2003, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Farewell to last Jarrow marcher
Cornelius Whalen
Cornelius Whalen was a modest man

A town turned out to remembered the last survivor of a pilgrimage that captured the nation.

Mourners gathered in Jarrow, South Tyneside, to say their final farewell to 93-year-old Cornelius Whalen.

Mr Whalen was the last surviving member of the Jarrow March, before his death on 14 September.

On Friday a requiem mass was held for Mr Whalen, known as Con to the people of Jarrow, at his local church, St Mary's.

As one of 200 jobless men who marched from the South Tyneside town to London in October 1936 to demand government aid, Mr Whalen was part of a pilgrimage that typified the depression of the 1930s.

But in his later years he played down his own part in the march, saying he just went along for the adventure.

Mr Whalen's daughter Teresa Graham, 59, and her husband Tom led mourners into the church.

His niece, Maria Flockton told how the whole family would have very happy memories.

She said: "He was a smashing fellow. He was a great character and he will be sadly missed.

"He used to walk all over and I remember going with him to the Jarrow slakes. Hhe never took a bus anywhere, he was the original Jarrow marcher.

Jarrow march
The Jarrow March was a protest against poverty in the town

"He didn't really talk about the march until his later years and it was really Teresa's husband Tom who got him to talk about it.

"I have fond memories of him playing his mandolin and penny whistle. He was very well known in the area and a lot of people will miss him.

"He was a very resourceful character and he never changed all the time I knew him. He was a very strong person and words cannot really describe him."

The Jarrow crusaders as they were know, marched on the government of then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, who refused to see them when they arrived in London.

A 12,000 signature petition was handed in at Downing Street by the then MP for Jarrow, Ellen Wilkinson.

The present Labour MP for Jarrow, Stephen Hepburn, praised the marchers as an example to the youth of today.

He said: "The Jarrow marchers will never be forgotten in the north east of England.

"With Con gone, it is the end of an era, but not the end of a legend."

In 2002, Jarrow Brewery named a beer after him, called Old Cornelius, which is still on sale at pubs throughout Tyneside.

The original banner and petition box used by the marchers are on display in the town.



The BBC's Chris Stewart
"Con was a quiet man and a quiet hero"

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