DOZENS gathered at Parkend Baptist Church this week to pay tribute to much-loved man of the Forest, Maurice Bent.
Maurice’s family, friends and those who knew him came together to celebrate his life at his funeral on Wednesday afternoon (October 20).
Tributes were paid by Maurice’s friend Bob Jenkins and ministers told stories of his achievements in the community, as well as his passion for music, his faith and the Forest of Dean.
Bob spoke of Maurice’s earlier days working at Northern United Colliery and his work as an organ tuner and restorer, as well as his love for music, his friends and his family, including his wife Doreen, who he married at Ruardean Hill Baptist Church in 1958, his son Martin and his daughter Kay.
He told of Maurice’s pride at once having the opportunity to perform at Gloucester Cathedral as well as his many achievements in the local community, including the donation of a support car to the ‘Hope for Tomorrow’ campaign to bring mobile chemotherapy treatment into the Forest during his year as President of the Forest of Dean Rotary Club.
The congregation were told of Maurice’s love of gardening, which he passed on to his daughter Kay, and the time he spent tending to his greenhouse which was “packed every year”.
Ministers retold stories of how Maurice used to take Kay and his son Martin to work with him as an organ restorer, which took them “all over the place”, and how Kay remembers hearing the magic word, “next!”, when he had finished working on each pipe.
Attendees also heard of how he often attempted to teach his friends and family members, including Martin’s wife Karen, the Forest dialect, and how he was seldom swayed by anybody’s opinion apart from Kay’s, with his friends, and the medical staff who cared for him in later life, often going to her and saying “can you have a word with your dad, he listens to you”.
The service included readings about two of his biggest passions, music and its connection to christian prayer, as well as four hymns that were chosen by Maurice.
During the reading, it was said that Maurice’s love for music was so great that he was probably already deep in conversation with late local musician Herbert Howells about the finer details of his compositions.
There was also a reading of a poem written by Maurice’s sister, Miriam Taylor, in 1982 called ‘A Corner of England (Between Severn and Wye)’, which tells of the natural beauty of the local area as well as the financial hardships faced by working people.
Those who attended the funeral were asked not to wear black, and donations were accepted to be split between Great Oaks Dean Forest Hospice and Woodside County Primary School.
He was buried at Ruardean Hill Baptist Church in a private burial following the funeral, and attendees were invited to join the family afterwards for light refreshments at Speech House Hotel, a place that Maurice often frequented.
Maurice peacefully passed away at his home on October 3, aged 87.
He was well-known locally as an author, Queen’s Verderer and primary campaigner in the successful efforts to save the Forest from privatisation and retain the Dilke Memorial Hospital.
Born in Ruardean, he initially trained as a carpenter at Northern United Colliery, before, as keen church organist, he became known internationally as an organ restorer, with his work taking him as far afield as the Caribbean.
As well as playing a key role in local campaigns to save the Dilke and keep the Forest in public ownership, he was a leading supporter of the restoration of the Wilderness Teaching Centre at Mitcheldean.
A freeminer and Queen’s Verderer, Maurice authored a number of books on the mining, musical and social history of the Forest during his lifetime, including ‘The
Highest Point in the Dean’, ‘The Last Deep Mine of Dean’ and ‘The Musical Traditions of the Dean’.
As an active churchman, he was a Deacon and one-time President of the Gloucester Sunday School Union.
Maurice was also President and Founder of the Herbert Howells Society, which commemorates the life of the Lydney-born composer by funding young musicians to take part in competitions, and founded The Royal Forest of Dean Organ Society.