Sixty-four years ago, upon Blackburn Rovers’ relegation from the old Division One to Division Two, an idiosyncratically British tradition was born. Cooper’s Hill has its cheese rolling, Llanwrtyd Wells has its bog snorkelling and Bacup has its Nutters Dance. And Bamber Bridge has the burying of the coffin.
Back in 1948, Blackburn Rovers fans gathered in the cellar of the Trades Hall, Bamber Bridge, there to lay a coffin in a symbolic burial of their dreams, marking the sad passing of their team’s time in the then premier league. Thus began a quirky custom that was also adopted by neighbours PNE and last took place a year ago with PNE’s coffin laid to rest upon their relegation to Division Two. Some may remember from 2001 that a reversal of the custom takes place with the resurrection of the coffin from the cellar when Blackburn Rovers or PNE are promoted. The 2001 event was covered by photographer and journalist Garry Cook in an article published in Total Football magazine. The article is still available on Garry’s website.
Over the years, the custom developed into something far less sombre than the funeral element suggests. Gradually, an ever-growing procession of milk floats, carnival style, and mock mourning (a comic priest delivering a few last words) were incorporated into proceedings, usually followed by a convivial gathering in the nearby public houses and fundraising for charity.
Over the last few weeks efforts have been made, with Councillor Mick Higgins of Bamber Bridge East Ward, to try to ensure that the tradition would be maintained following the Rovers’ heart-breaking relegation this year.
Unfortunately and mainly due to police and local licensee disagreement on how the events could take place safely and happily (following public order issues after PNE’s burial event last year), the Bamber Bridge burial and procession will not take place this year.
However, a number of BRFCS members were unhappy that a generations-old tradition should disappear entirely, particularly in the current climate where so many of our other club traditions seem to be being eliminated. Led by BRFCS forum member EwoodDawn, negotiations with the police and local council in Blackburn have been carried out to ensure that the custom is not consigned to the history books. Therefore, this year the custom will be moved to Ewood, the event taking place on Sunday, 22nd July, gathering at 1:30 p.m. for a 2:30 p.m. start.
Our Premiership coffin will be carried in a procession from the Fox and Hounds pub to The Aqueduct pub at Ewood. Obviously this parade will be on a much smaller scale than that seen in Bamber Bridge, since the milk floats cannot be accommodated on busy Bolton Road. Once at The Aqueduct, a humorous speech will be made and then we can all drink to happy memories and hopes (and fears) for the future. There will also be some charity collection tins for those in a generous mood.
The hope is that this day will provide a much-needed opportunity for a bit of camaraderie and good old northern humour amongst fellow Rovers fans in these bleak times. In the past, participants have attended in fancy dress: many in old-fashioned mourning attire, some in more amusing get-ups. Prizes for children attending in costume are also planned. The aim is to both uphold a tradition and provide an opportunity for Rovers supporters groups to form a visible symbol of unity: that we still can and will come together for the good of our football club.
All Rovers fans are more than welcome to join the peculiar fun and the organisers are hoping that representatives from the organisations involved in Sir Bill Taylor’s “Blackburn united” idea will be involved as pall-bearers or ceremonial flag carriers behind the coffin. Other fan groups that wish to participate are also cordially invited to contact the organisers.
If you are planning on going along to the event, please can you let the organisers know via the forum thread here.