Hundreds of friends, relatives and former colleagues gathered at St Cuthbert’s Church in Castle Vale today to say goodbye to Carole Rafferty, who died on 17th June, aged 61.
Shortly after lunchtime, mourners began to gather on the steps of the church, part bathed in sunshine, part shaded by leafy trees. Old friends from the former Housing Action Trust who had returned for the funeral, shook hands, embraced and chatted in the pleasant surroundings of a now comfortable estate that Carole had done so much to create. In death, as in life, she had brought together people from all classes, all walks of life.
At 1.45pm, the sound of horses’ hooves bringing the magnificent carriage that bore the coffin silenced the conversations.
Inside the church, Father Darren Miller, who had returned from southern climes to lead the service, told the packed assembly that Carole had probably been awarded her MBE for being ‘a big, lovely, pain in the neck.’ Carole’s many friends chuckled quietly.
“Carole didn’t mind ruffling a few feathers,” said Father Darren. “When it came to getting the best for this place, she would work tirelessly. She wouldn’t let anyone forget that this is a place of people, and that people matter. She would tell you if she didn’t like something. But she would always have the good grace to let you know when you had done something right.”
After Father Darren’s tribute, and a reading of the 23rd Psalm, local singer Tezlin Newall-Harding sang ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’, a heart-wrenchingly beautiful rendition of a song that Carole had sung during her last days in hospital.
“It’s the end of an era,” one observer remarked outside the church, as local police officers held up the traffic to let the carriage and funeral cars take Carole on her final journey.