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Newmarket Town Band stalwart Stuart dies after long illness

Newmarket Town Band stalwart Stewart Cawkwell, who has died aged 66
Newmarket Town Band stalwart Stewart Cawkwell, who has died aged 66

A packed congregation is expected at All Saints’ Church, Newmarket, on Thursday (November 23) when family and friends gather to say farewell to popular Newmarket Town Band member Stuart Cawkwell, who has died.

Stuart, who died at his home in Palace Street, Newmarket, on November 4 after suffering from motor neurone disease for two-and-a-half years, had been a bandsman for more than 30 years.

He first played the cornet at school in his native Hull and took it up again in the early 1980s. Since then he made hundreds of appearances at events all over the area and was later joined in the band’s line-up by his son Matt.

Roy Starling, who has been a band member for almost as long as Stuart, recalled that after a few years as front row cornet, Stuart decided he wanted to play a larger instrument with a deeper sound.

“He went on to the euphonium and time proved that he and that instrument were made for each other,” said Roy. “Everyone said what a beautiful tone he had. It was superb and he could have played for any band in the country.”

“When he became ill, he found it hard to manage the weight of the euphonium so he looked through the band store and found a valve trombone which he adapted so it could rest on his chest. Despite his problems he was determined to carry on playing and he did for some months.

“Even when he was forced to stop playing, he would sometimes come to see us play and it was emotional for everyone because for so many years both as a player and as band chairman, Stuart had put the band before any other interests he had,” added Roy.

Stuart was also a long-serving and loyal member of Kennett and Kentford Football Club, which he joined as a player in about 1972.

By the time the club folded in 2010, he had been player, captain, manager and club chairman and would often mark out the pitch and take home the dirty kit. In the early days, the team had some notable successes in local leagues and cup competitions and Stuart’s name was inextricably linked with the club long after he stopped playing.

Stuart, who was 66, came to Newmarket from Hull when he was 15 to work at trainer Jack Clayton’s Bedford Cottage Stables in Bury Road.

He left racing in the early 1970s to take a job with William Press Ltd, converting household appliances to use North Sea gas. When that mammoth operation was completed, he joined British Gas, working as a service engineer and later as housing development manager based in the company’s Exning Road offices but working in centres all over the area.

Finally, he joined the Bury St Edmunds-based Energy Information Centre as energy consultant until his retirement as his health worsened.

Stuart and his wife Angela celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in May with daughter Emma, son Matt and their three little granddaughters. Just months earlier – a year and a day before he died – they had been invited, along with other Palace Street residents to be guests as the Queen opened the new Heritage Centre, just yards from their front door.

“Stuart found going out difficult, but he was so chuffed and very proud about the invitation that we went along and had a wonderful day to remember,” said Angela, who has been inundated with messages and cards – testament to the respect and affection Stuart inspired in all who knew him."