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Newmarket dedicates its Covid remembrance gardens to provide a space to reflect and remember





Three-and-a-half years after the start of the Covid pandemic which has gone on to claim nearly 300,000 lives in the UK, Newmarket has unveiled the town’s remembrance gardens in memory of local people who lost their lives to the virus.

One of those attending the poignant event in the War Memorial Gardens near the Clock Tower on Tuesday was Helen Beach, whose father Clive Bray may have been the first person from Newmarket to die as a result of Covid.

Retired printing technician Mr Bray, of Rowley Drive, was 81 when he died on April 14, 2020, in West Suffolk Hospital, more than a month after he contracted the disease.

Newmarket Mayor Cllr Philippa Winter with town councillors, Jockey Club representatives and members of the clergy were among those who gathered for the blessing of the town’s Covid memorial Picture by Mark Westley
Newmarket Mayor Cllr Philippa Winter with town councillors, Jockey Club representatives and members of the clergy were among those who gathered for the blessing of the town’s Covid memorial Picture by Mark Westley

Helen, her brother, Andrew, and Mr Bray’s five grandchildren, were not allowed to visit him in his last days and could only say a final goodbye via Face Time. They were also unable to attend his funeral which they watched online as funeral director, Phil Fuller of Southgates, sat in a pew to represent their family.

It was, as the Rev Robert Otule, of All Saints’ Church, observed as he led Tuesday’s short service of dedication and blessing, a time to remember, ‘some of us with tears in our eyes and tears in our hearts’.

Two benches with the phrases ‘Reflect and Remember’ and ‘To Those We Lost’ have been installed alongside the gardens, which are hedged with rosemary for remembrance. The area is part of a Suffolk Mental Health project for the memorialisation of Covid across the county which provided a £5,000 grant towards the cost.

Among those attending were Newmarket Mayor Cllr Philippa Winter and deputy mayor Cllr John Harvey, town councillors Jo McHugh and John Borda, who also represents Newmarket Churches Together, Nick Patton and Rob Achner, respectively managing director and head of operations of Jockey Club Estates, Deacon James Hurst of Newmarket Roman Catholic Church and Cathy Whitaker, clerk to the town council.

The finishing touch to the memorial will be installed later this year when an engraved tablet made of blue pearl granite is set into the garden. The words chosen are from the pen of Victorian Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson: “If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever.”