Obituary: Peter Cushing

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ANTHONY HAYWARD's obituary of Peter Cushing (12 August) was excellent and accurate on his professional career, but no notice of Cushing's life would be complete without mentioning his extraordinary and sincere devotion, for some 30 years, to the harbour town of Whitstable, in Kent, writes Julian Hurstfield.

Cushing lived in a simple fisherman's cottage by the sea. He enjoyed the affection and respect of everyone he met. After his wife, Helen - herself a much loved Whitstable figure - died in 1971, and was buried in St Alphege's Church at Seasalter Cross, he made, so long as health allowed, a daily pilgrimage to her grave, there to sit and commune with her. He used to tell people that he was only waiting to join her. His religious beliefs, of a mystical, non-denominational kind, forbad him to hasten that reunion.

In Whitstable he devoted himself to any number of local environmental and charitable causes, but quietly, without fuss or publicity. He is remembered as a shy and modest man, who guarded his privacy. He had to be coaxed to write his autobiographies, and coaxed again to attend signing sessions (the only ones he gave) at a small bookshop in Whitstable High Street.

He was visibly embarrassed when, in recognition of the awe in which he was held locally, Cushing's Point - a peaceful little patch of shoreline - was carved out for him in 1992.

It comes as a surprise to find that an international star is a quiet, unassuming fellow. It comes as more of a surprise - though perhaps it should not - to discover that an actor who, much of the time, frightened his audiences, was gentle and kindly in person. But everyone in Whitstable can confirm that this was so.