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Town's final farewell to 'Mr Brixham' Danny Irvine

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 27, 2012

  • poignant: The coffin draped with the White Ensign Andy Styles - TQAS20121221G-004_C

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GALES of laughter and rounds of applause rang around St Mary's Church in Brixham at the funeral of Danny Irvine.

Ordinarily, funerals are hardly fun-filled occasions, but the Brixham RFC president was anything but ordinary and the service was a celebration of a life lived to the full.

Mr Irvine, a retired chief petty officer in the Royal Navy, died aged 84 on December 11. He certainly packed a lot into those 84 years. There were 32 years in the Royal Navy, followed by a second career as moorings officer for the Dart Harbour Authority.

There was rugby — as a player and administrator for more than 70 years — as well as community work as a scout troop secretary, youth club founder and supporter of the now-defunct home for orphans of seafarers in Berry Head Road.

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It was largely for his community work that Mr Irvine was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1979.

And there was family life with wife Anne — the couple were married for 58 years — as well as bringing up sons Shaun and James and daughter Anne, who died 15 years ago of cancer.

All the disparate strands of Danny Irvine's life were pulled together by long-time friend, Norman Marler, whose eulogy seldom dwelt on anything serious for too long.

Speaking just a few feet away from Mr Irvine's coffin, which was draped with the Royal Navy white ensign and adorned with his cap and service medals, Mr Marler said: "If I were to include all of Danny's exploits and escapades, we would be here all week."

Addressing a congregation of more than 400, mourners were standing 10 deep at the back of the church, Mr Marler added: "The fact this service had to be held in this beautiful, big church speaks volumes for the esteem in which Danny was held."

Although he was a Roman Catholic, the service was held in an Anglican church large enough to get all the mourners in. There wasn't a spare seat to be had.

Mr Marler told numerous anecdotes from Mr Irvine's time as team manager and fixture secretary at Brixham, ranging from press ganging hapless passers by into making up the numbers to an imaginative way of getting out of a game when the club couldn't raise a side.

There was a time nearly 50 years ago when Brixham didn't enjoy the best of relations with referees, and in particular one Torquay-based whistleman Bill Allen.

When Mr Allen turned up to referee a fixture against BRNC Dartmouth, he was sent packing by Mr Irvine before he could get his kit on.

"Danny took up the whistle for the match and naturally incurred the wrath of Devon RFU," said Mr Marler. "Brixham felt duty bound to tell he had been a naughty boy, but secretly we loved him for it."

Mr Irvine spent the latter part of his Navy career shore based, either in Plymouth or at BRNC Dartmouth.

"One of Prince Charles' claims to fame, and something I believe he still mentions to visiting dignitaries, is that while he was at the college he was taught Naval traditions and customs by Danny," said Mr Marler.

Retirement from the Royal Navy brought a new job policing the Dart for speeders and fee dodgers — a job Mr Irvine relished.

"He could often be seen chasing speeding crabbers and fishing boats up and down the river in his underpowered dory," said Mr Marler.

"Danny enjoyed a great rapport with the fishermen and enjoyed cat and mouse games with the river pirates.

"He would often wake James up on a Saturday morning and say 'let's go and catch some Frenchmen'. And they would lie in wait by the mouth of the river for foreigners jumping their moorings."

No one knew the rulebook, rugby or harbour authority, quite like Danny Irvine and he ruffled a few feathers over the years sticking to his guns.

"He could be strict, but was always fair and always had a twinkle in his eye," said Mr Marler.

The service was conducted by Prebendary Tim Deacon, who described Danny Irvine as 'Mr Brixham' in his closing remarks.

Bugler James Morris from BRNC Dartmouth played the Last Post and Reveille at the end of the service.

A private requiem mass had been held for family and close friends at the catholic church of Our Lady Star of the Sea on the morning of the funeral.

Following the funeral service, Mr Irvine was buried in the churchyard at St Mary's.

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