‘He fought right to the end’ - legend, leader, family man... Duncan Forbes
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019
The funeral of Norwich City legend Duncan Forbes took place at Carrow Road on Friday – Chris Lakey witnessed a perfect send-off to the great man
Remember November 15, 2019 - it was the day Carrow Road stood still for a legend.
City fans bedecked in yellow and green joined arms with players, past and present, the club hierarchy, and the family of Duncan Scott Forbes to say goodbye to a legend.
Never before has the club's home seen a funeral service. But never before has the football club had such good reason to.
From the moment that a silver hearse, with yellow roses on the coffin, moved slowly past the entrance to the City Stand, the road lined with club staff, to make its way around the stadium before entering to the left of the Barclay Stand, to the moment, one hour and 20 minutes later, that it departed, their appreciation for the man they called Big Dunc was without comparison.
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It was touching, emotional, amusing, and loving.
At times it was just like the man himself, especially when the PA system blasted out Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline. Out came the scarves, the arms of hundreds waving in rhythm.
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"Reaching out...touching me, touching you' - it summed up the man. But then again, so much of what was said and done defined the former player and the football club he served for 33 years.
It was always going to be a day of mixed emotions: it is hard to celebrate a loved one that has been lost, but it was a service that paid due regard to a man whose name will always be synonymous with Norwich City Football Club.
The silence that greeted the hearse as it entered the stadium seemed to reach out across the city: you could hear a pin drop.
A lone piper played Flower of Scotland. Behind Duncan's widow Janette and sons Elliott and Scott was City boss Daniel Farke, sat next to club captain Grant Hanley. Delia Smith, Michael Wynn Jones and Stuart Webber were there, and, of course former players, from different eras - his close pal David Stringer, with whom he formed a formidable central defensive partnership, Ken Foggo, Peter Silvester, Bill Punton, David Cross, Kevin Bond, Darren Huckerby, Adam Drury ... and many more.
All around the ground the electronic signs carried the words 'Duncan Forbes 1941-2019', shining brightly and bold and defiant against an ever-gloomy backdrop of leaden skies. The revolving scoreboard carried an image of him, his face beaming.
His widow's words were read by John Hindmarsh, and told a story of a young boy growing up in a rough part of Edinburgh, who found his release in football: "If there were none of his mates to play with, he'd just play with the men."
Of such attitudes are real men hewn.
A punch in the throat at a local boys boxing club put him off that sport, a spell as a wages clerk in Edinburgh never suited - and neither did a role as centre forward with Musselburgh. But life changed when he was scouted by then Colchester boss Benny Fenton and headed south in September, 1961.
Seven years later he moved to Norwich City, and a love affair with Norfolk began.
"If you cut dad he wouldn't bleed red, it would be yellow," said son Scott, at times fighting back the tears as he paid tribute to his father.
There were insights to the man outside of football: his love for family picnics on Norfolk beaches; how he would hold his arm up and stop the traffic as he trained for the very first Norfolk marathon - and how he had a funny line for every occasion.
There was also a telling insight into Forbes' legendary fitness levels.
"In those days footballers didn't get paid an awful lot and during the summer dad and some of the other players would work on building sites around the city," he said.
"Perhaps that's why he was so fit when the season started."
And the competitive streak that saw Forbes feared by opponents, loved by his team-mates, was evident off the pitch too.
"We couldn't play a simple game of snakes and ladders without feeling a little intimidated," said Scott. But it was said with a smile, in the knowledge that not only was Duncan Forbes a great footballer, he was also a great family man.
His love for his family shone through, but for the family there is something that will live with them forever - that in his final years, Duncan was being treated for Alzheimer's, a disease that, as a poem chosen by his widow read, "Your body went on living, but your mind had reached its end."
"It is just a pity dad has been robbed of the retirement he so richly deserved, but life can be so unfair at times," said Scott.
"He fought right to end."
Duncan Forbes. Always a fighter. Right to the very end.