Seaside town pays respect to 'gentleman' Cushing

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The Independent Online
THE SEASIDE town of Whitstable in Kent came to a standstill yesterday when hundreds lined the streets to pay their last respects to the actor Peter Cushing, writes Mary Braid.

With not a celebrity in sight, the cosy, local event was a fitting farewell to the 'unluvviest' of actors for whom the town was home for more than 40 years.

As the funeral cortege passed down the main street, shops closed and scores fell in behind the procession. Jacqueline Hinkley said Whitstable had allowed Mr Cushing, 81, star of 23 Hammer horror fims, to live an ordinary life. But it was clear yesterday that to locals, Mr Cushing, who rode his bike around town and took tea most days at the Tudor Restaurant, was an intensely romantic figure.

Elderly women whispered that Mr Cushing would be happy to be reunited, beyond the grave, with Helen Beck, his actress wife who died 23 years ago. They knew that, for him, every day had been an effort since her death. 'He was a fine actor you know,' a pensioner, Vera Strand, said of the man who left Britain in the mid-1930s after just three weeks in repertory to try his luck in Hollywood. 'He did Shakespeare and George Orwell's 1984. He only did the Hammer stuff after Helen died. He was so devoted to her. The work dulled the pain.'

While his hollow cheeks and gaunt expression made him an ideal Dracula and Dr Frankenstein, Mrs Strand and her friends thought him handsome and his enduring love for Helen utterly romantic. 'He always touched his hat when he passed,' Mrs Strand said, 'especially to the ladies. He was a real gentleman.'

The procession through the town from his seafront home included stops at Cushing's View, a seafront walk named in his honour, the Tudor tea rooms and his favourite bookshop.

Friends formed the greatest part of the small gathering at the crematorium. Mr Cushing's ashes will be placed in Seasalter Old Church, beside his wife's. A memorial service is expected to be held in September.

(Photograph omitted)