Powerful tributes paid to Exmouth skipper Geoff Ingram at funeral

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By PGStrange | Tuesday, October 02, 2012, 10:25

POWERFUL TRIBUTES have been paid to Geoff Ingram, the 51-year-old Exmouth skipper who died when his trawler Sarah Jayne capsized off Berry Head earlier this month. At a moving funeral service held for him yesterday (Monday 1 October), Geoff's son Tom described his father as "a hero" for going back into the wheelhouse of the capsized Sarah Jayne to send out the alarm signal so that the trawler's crew could be saved…

The tributes came during Geoff's funeral service, held at Exmouth's Holy Trinity Church on Rolle Street. Around 700 mourners attended the packed service, including members of the Ingram family, the Exmouth fishing community, the RNLI lifeboat crew, the Exmouth Mayor and Town Crier, and the many friends that Geoff made during his life.

Led by the Revd James Hutchings, the service opened with Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On". This, Revd Hutchings explained, may have been a sad piece of music, but was particularly requested by Geoff to be played in the event of his funeral. As it played, Geoff's coffin, carrying a floral wreath depicting a fish rising out of the sea, was brought in by those close to the family.

In his opening address, Revd Hutchings spoke of the whole town's shock at losing Geoff and what his death had meant for the Ingram family. And he touched on the anger that some might feel towards God for the inexplicable loss of the popular fisherman. The tone of the service was set by the first hymn,"For Those In Peril On The Sea".

During a speech – written by Geoff's wife Sarah and read by family friend Simon Jones – the congregation learnt of Geoff's life, from his early childhood in Topsham, to moving to Exmouth and becoming interested in sailing, joining the Exmouth RNLI Lifeboat crew in January 1980 and serving until July 1998. Geoff's 18 years on the Exmouth lifeboat included winning the RNLI's Vellum Service Certificate for bravery for rescuing two girls from a sinking speedboat in 1985.

Much admired skipper

Geoff then became a fisherman, initially as a crew member, before owning a series of fishing vessels. A much admired skipper, he became adept at getting a good catch. The congregation was told that this was how Geoff viewed Sarah – his wife to be – who he first met at The Beach pub in Exmouth. From a chance meeting in the late 80s, their relationship flourished, they married and had two children, Vicky and Tom. The congregation also learnt that more recently in his spare time, carp fishing and motorcycling had become two of Geoff's favourite hobbies.

The Revd James Hutchings read the Footprints Prayer while John Anderson, the Brixham Fishermen's Mission Superintendent, gave a reading from Corinthians.

Moving speech

In what was the service's most moving speech, Tom Ingram described his father as "a hero" for going back into the wheelhouse of the capsized Sarah Jayne to send out the alarm signal so that the trawler's crew could be saved. He said that no one in the town had a bad word to say about his dad, and he would always be a hero to him and his family. Tom especially thanked the diving team of friends who brought his dad's body back from the wreck of the Sarah Jayne, 160ft underwater, so that Geoff could finally be at rest and his family could say goodbye properly.

After the speeches and readings, Revd Hutchings summed up Geoff's life, saying that he clearly had a lot to give in life, he helped others without hesitation and that ultimately he had given his own life to save his crew.

The service ended with the powerful strains of U2's "With Or Without You" echoing around the church. A poignant and heartfelt silence fell as the large congregation departed. A donation was taken at the door, with funds going to the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen.

"It was a great privilege to be there and to host Geoff's funeral," said the Rev James Hutchings. "I hope that it enabled Geoff's family and the Exmouth fishing community to celebrate Geoff's life."

If you wish to donate to the charity, send your donation to Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, c/o Richard W.Gregg & Sons, Funeral Directors, 47 Rolle Street, Exmouth EX8 2RS.



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