Page last updated at 17:28 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Funeral for Laura Ashley founder


Jane Ashley pays tribute to her late father, Sir Bernard Ashley

Hundreds of mourners gathered in Powys for the funeral of Sir Bernard Ashley, co-founder of the fashion firm named after his first wife Laura Ashley.

Sir Bernard, who died from cancer on 14 February aged 82, was laid to rest in Carno near Laura who died in 1985.

Villagers, friends and former employees filled the church and gathered in the graveyard too, unable to find a pew.

His coffin left the church for the last time to the Frank Sinatra classic, My Way.

Sir Bernard Ashley
Sir Bernard's coffin left the church to My Way

Mourners described the service as a celebration of Sir Bernard's life.

The funeral was held in Carno, near Newtown, where the family built their first factory in the 1960s.

The business went on to employ hundreds of local people, many of whom attended the service.

Glyn Davies, a former Welsh assembly member and ex-chairman of the Development Board for Rural Wales also attended the funeral.

He said: "As the coffin left the church to My Way it left many people smiling. The music seemed to sum up Bernard's life.

"The service was a celebration of his life and achievements and many of the people who worked with and for him over the years attended it.

"Some of what was said in tribute left many of us smiling, even though it was a sad occasion."

Derrick Pugh, a former manager of Laura Ashley in Carno, said it was a sad but very humorous service.

He added: "I was very pleased to see so many former and current employees at the funeral, some of whom had travelled from as far afield as London."

The Royal Gurkha Rifles, which Sir Bernard served in as a young officer, were also represented at the funeral.

The eulogy was given by his friend Vicomte Philippe De Spoelberch, and Sir Bernard's brother and grandchildren also addressed the congregation.

From humble beginnings at the Old Railway House in the little known village of Carno, Laura Ashley grew to have 5,000 retail outlets worldwide.

Sir Bernard's death came 24 years after Laura Ashley died aged 60 following an accident at her daughter's home.

In 1984, a year before her death, the firm had opened its new company headquarters in Newtown, Powys, creating 500 jobs.

But in the 1990s the firm's fortunes faded, and in 2004 its former headquarters in Carno closed.

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