Fond farewell: Christchurch says goodbye to 'wandering star' Cliff Cunningham (From Bournemouth Echo)
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Fond farewell: Christchurch says goodbye to 'wandering star' Cliff Cunningham
CARING: A crowd gathers for the open air farewell service to Cliff Cunningham at the bandstand on Christchurch Quay. Picture: Richard Crease
AROUND 100 people came to an open air memorial for a homeless man who lived his life under the sun and stars.
Cliff Cunningham’s sister Vanessa told the Echo: “There was no way we could have done anything indoors.
“I want to thank everyone in Christchurch. I couldn’t believe how many people turned up. It was just amazing.”
The service of thanksgiving for the 57-year-old was held at the bandstand by the town’s quay yesterday.
Cliff was well known in the town and throughout the New Forest for his lifestyle and gentle nature.
He chose to sleep rough and was supported and fed by traders and residents.
Charlotte Jordan, 26, searched for Cliff last Christmas to give him food, and found him at the bowls ground with a little tree and decorations made from beer cans.
The service heard he was a philosophical man who read avidly as a youngster.
He could polish off the Telegraph crossword in less than six minutes.
He was born in Eastleigh in 1954 before largely growing up in Malta and the service heard he then spent much of his adult life travelling around Europe and the UK, often on a bike.
His family would get idiosyncratic phone calls and postcards from places like New Orleans, Malta, Zurich and Innsbruck.
The apt song choices included Wandering Star, and a track from one of his favourite performers, Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind.
His unusual life even included a spell serving in the French Foreign Legion and working on a Kibbutz in Israel.
He still moved around the local area, including Ashurst, Totton, Sway, Ferndown and Ringwood , but came to spend most of his time in Christchurch.
“He loved it here,” said retired Reverend John Turpin, who conducted the service. “He had finally come home.”
Over the years people came across him unofficially tending to West Moors Cemetery, listening to his radio in Saxon Square, and many more places.
Steve Haddon, 25, from Christchurch, told the Echo how Cliff cared for him for around a year when he became homeless at 17.
Steve said: “Cliff would cook me breakfast and tell me if ever I got into trouble he would help.
“I have always gone back to visit him.”