THE life of William (Bill) Baines, 77, of Royal Wootton Bassett, was celebrated by a large congregation at a thanksgiving service in the Methodist Church, following the cremation at Kingsdown on October 27.

Around 15 classic cars, including Bill’s black Rover, were parked on the Town Hall precinct as a farewell tribute from his many friends in the Classic Car Club.

Bill was also a member of Royal Wootton Bassett & District Art Society, and was a former President of the town Probus Club.

He enjoyed singing, and was a member of Cantanti Choir. He was a popular, cheerful character, who liked people and was well liked by many. Even during serious illness (he had battled cancer for some years), when asked how he was, he would always reply, “Champion!” his familiar catchphrase.

As people assembled for the service, slides of Bill, enjoying many activities, were projected on to the large screen that is also used for hymns.

The eulogy was given by Bill’s son, Mark Baines, and several friends also spoke of Bill’s interesting life, warm, friendly character and dry wit.

Bill was born at Carnforth, Lancashire, was a pupil of Lancaster Royal Grammar School and had a passion for steam locomotives.

In his youth he played in a skiffle group, and was also a bass player in a four-piece band.

He and his wife Audrey were married in 1963, and had a son Mark and a daughter Jo.

After an early career as a telephone engineer, Bill joined Greater Manchester Police and attained the rank of Sergeant. He was noted for his patience and positivity, and was widely respected. Tributes recalled his keen sense of fun, friendliness and readiness to help. He enjoyed gardening and cultivated lovely flowerbeds.

Many aspects of Bill’s life were recalled with affection and gratitude. Joan Willacy read memories of Bill’s childhood days, written by Eddie and Joyce Richardson. Bill’s Morecambe days were recalled by David Willacy; Rochdale days by Ian Royle and Brackley days by Janet Crisp, who said, “We are blessed to have known Bill.” The Rev Stuart Earl and the Rev David Perkins led prayers, and the Rev Glyn Jenkins gave a Bible reading. Georgina Pritchard, one of the grandchildren, read her own lovely Spring poem which Bill had thought was “wonderful”. Not surprisingly, Georgina won warm applause.

The involvement of Bill and his wife Audrey in church and community life has been appreciated greatly, said the Rev David Perkins, Royal Wootton Bassett’s resident Methodist minister. “Even in his illness he brought joy to others.”

Everyone was invited to share further reminiscences and refreshments in the Hillside Hall after the service. Memorial donations were for the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, where Bill was a patient for 13 years and benefited from experimental cancer treatment trials. Within a few days of his funeral, these donations totalled £1,370.