Anthony Earnshaw

Obituary written by Dave Robson (31/0801).

DESIGNER FUNERAL: Anthony Earnshaw left, and his wife Gail right. Picture: DAVE CHARNLEY


Veteran jazz musician George Melly joined mourners at the unconventional funeral of a surreal Saltburn artist.

Anthony Earnshaw's pals scribbled farewell messages on his cardboard coffin as he lay in state for three hours in the town's Britannia pub.

Mr Melly - a friend and collector of Mr Earnshaw's works - was among those who left his mark on the coffin, which was adorned with the 76-year-old artist's trademark beret, a glass of red wine and critiques of his work.

And at his funeral on Tuesday, a ghetto blaster played jazz and blues music as the coffin was lowered into the ground at Saltburn Cemetery.

Mr Earnshaw's widow Gail said the funeral, arranged by Stockton's Undertaken with Love, "was exactly how he would have wanted it".

She said: "He hated pomposity, so we had a cardboard coffin taken from our home in Emerald Street to the pub in a Volvo, because he didn't want a hearse."

"It was an extraordinary scene. George Melly asked if he could have a lift in the Volvo, so they moved the coffin over for him."

"You then had the sight of George Melly and a coffin in the back of a Volvo going through the streets of Saltburn while people walked behind, like they do in New Orleans."

"Someone commented they'd never seen so many people in Saltburn Commentary - it was full of jazz singers, famous artists, people from across the country and Saltburn folk."

Then it was back to the Britannia for a spirited wake, including a jam session from George Melly himself. Landlord and landlady of the Britannia, Graham Neal and Ann Allsopp, said they were happy to help.

Mr Neal said: "If it's someone's last wish to go to his funeral from a pub, we felt it right we should fulfil that dream."

Mr Earnshaw who died of cancer, was born in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, and spent three childhood years in Redcar before settling in Leeds. The Earnshaw's moved to Saltburn in 1989 when Gail was appointed education officer at the Cleveland Gallery and Craft Centre.

A self-described "armchair anarchist," among Mr Earnshaw's best works were his "boxed assemblages" - glassed boxes containing thought-provoking items.

George Melly says his "most moving object" was a collection of combs gathered from the gutters in "wonderful illustration of the human condition."


Anthony Earnshaw - The Imp of Surrealism