VIDEO: Tributes to '˜inspirational' working class hero Harry Harpham
They sang The Red Flag and chanted '˜the miners united, will never be defeated'.
National Union of Mineworkers banners stood either side of his coffin and the sound of The Strawbs’ Part of the Union and John Lennon’s Working Class Hero filled Sheffield Cathedral.
‘Inspirational’ former miner Harry Harpham was given a send-off fit for a Sheffield politician who was fighting for the city right up until his untimely death.
More than 300 people poured into Sheffield Cathedral yesterday to pay their respects to Mr Harpham, who died on February 4 – just nine months after being elected MP for Brightside and Hillsborough.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, deputy leader Tom Watson and former Home Secretary and Sheffield MP David Blunkett were among those who packed into the Cathedral to celebrate the life of the 61-year-old.
Speaking before the funeral, Mr Corbyn called Mr Harpham a ‘great man’ and a true fighter for Sheffield.
He said: “In his short time in Parliament, he showed his true mettle, his determination to stand up for the people of Sheffield, for good- quality houses, for decent jobs and a welfare system that worked for all.
“He also defended the steel industry – and in Harry’s memory we’ll carry on that fight.”
In a colourful service, mourners paid tribute to the former Clipstone Colliery worker who was a stalwart of the miners’ strike by chanting the dispute’s anthem – ‘the miners united, will never be defeated’ – and singing The Red Flag.
Mourners were told former Sheffield Council deputy leader Mr Harpham regarded the trade union movement as his ‘second family’.
During moving eulogies delivered by Mr Harpham’s brother Rick, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner the Reverend Alan Billings and Mr Blunkett, he was described as a loving big brother, proud dad and someone who ‘always fought for what was right’.
Rick said: “Our Harry was always the life and soul of every party – and he went to a lot of parties in his time!
“You could hear his infectious laugh a mile away, often you heard it long before you saw him.
“He was our big brother, and while we might have had our disagreements, it was always ‘you fight one of us – you fight all of us’.
“The sense of security that gave me is something I carried throughout my life.
“He always had a sense of the right thing to do.
“You saw that when he stood firm with his comrades for a year during the Miners’ Strike while others called it a day.”
Mr Harpham’s daughter Annie also paid tribute to her dad with a moving rendition of traditional folk song Blooming Heather.
Mr Blunkett joked his agnostic ‘comrade and friend’ would have been tickled to see his service officiated by the Rev Billings, who also happens to be in charge of the region’s police. He said: “Harry was special to all who knew him.
“I will never forget the sound of his voice when I would get out of the car, he would take my hand and say ‘ey up comrade’.
“We will continue fighting the fight to make the world a better place.”
Mr Billings explained the service was conducted at Sheffield Cathedral not as an indication of Mr Harpham’s religious beliefs but because of the high number of people who wanted to pay their respects.
He said: “Harry’s dedication to the NUM was an inspiration to many.”
NUM banners stood either side of Mr Harpham’s coffin throughout the funeral.
And the music that accompanied the service demonstrated how fiercely proud the father-of-five was of his union roots – The Strawbs’ Part of the Union and John Lennon’s Working Class Hero.
Mr Harpham, who had cancer, leaves wife Gill and children Annie, Kieran, Dan, Emily and Victoria. He was also a doting grandad to his first grandchild Layla Grace.