Jack Furness: Emotional last farewell to stalwart Vincent motorcycle mechanic

Motorcycle mechanic Jack Furness, who has died at the age of 95. Picture: Geoff Page

Motorcycle mechanic Jack Furness, who has died at the age of 95. Picture: Geoff Page - Credit: Archant

RAF members and civilians lined Henlow’s roads for an emotional last farewell to motorcycle mechanic and wartime air force reservist John ‘Jack’ Furness.

Motorcycle mechanic Jack Furness' coffin is conveyed through Henlow on a sidecar. Picture: Geoff Pag

Motorcycle mechanic Jack Furness' coffin is conveyed through Henlow on a sidecar. Picture: Geoff Page - Credit: Archant

Jack was carried through Henlow Camp in a motorcycle hearse, followed by his biker friends – led by Jack’s Vincent Comet – ahead of his funeral at North Herts Crematorium near Hitchin.

Jack’s death at the age of 95 on March 8 marked the end of an era for Vincent HRD motorcycles, as he was the last surviving workshop engineer from the iconic Stevenage firm – even outliving the apprentice John Surtees, who died last year.

Jack, who raised his children in Stotfold and later lived in Hitchin’s West Hill, grew up in the villages of Pemberton and Marsh Green, near Wigan.

Motorcycle mechanic Jack Furness' coffin is conveyed through Henlow on a sidecar. Picture: Geoff Pag

Motorcycle mechanic Jack Furness' coffin is conveyed through Henlow on a sidecar. Picture: Geoff Page - Credit: Archant

As the son of a Yorkshireman and a Lancashire lass, he said he was entitled to wear both red and white roses – as marked with the funeral flowers last Wednesday.

Jack’s passion for all things mechanical began when, as a boy, he would watch his relatives maintaining the steam engines in the cotton mills and coal pits.

In his eulogy, son-in-law Geoff Page told how Jack had left school aged 14 to work in a hardware store, before joining the RAF Volunteer Reserve during the war.

Jack Furness during his time with the RAF Volunteers Reserve. Picture: Courtesy of Geoff Page

Jack Furness during his time with the RAF Volunteers Reserve. Picture: Courtesy of Geoff Page - Credit: Archant

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He specialised in Lancaster and Wellington bombers – and his release papers recorded that he was “a superior mechanic on the repair and maintenance of the combustion engine”.

One of his postings brought him to RAF Henlow, and at a dance in Hitchin he met Pat Webb. They married at the town’s St Mary’s Church on May 15, 1948.

After a period apart as Jack worked for British Leyland in Wigan, Pat found him work with Vincent in Stevenage – “and as they say the rest is history”, said Geoff. Jack later set up his own firm refurbishing Vincent bikes at Cromer, near Stevenage, with fellow ex-Vincent man Alf Searle.

Jack Furness on his Royal Enfield motorcycle. Picture: Courtesy of Geoff Page

Jack Furness on his Royal Enfield motorcycle. Picture: Courtesy of Geoff Page - Credit: Archant

He and Pat lived in Stotfold and raised Rita and Bob, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1972 at the age of 18. After Pat’s death in 1986, Jack married Olive Aze on January 3, 1990. She died in 2000.

Geoff said Jack’s ability to fix things was renowned, and that he had lived by the mantra of “never put off until tomorrow what you can do today”. His life took in such diverse things as salmon fishing in Canada to hot air ballooning for his 90th birthday.

Jack was still riding motorcycles until two years ago. He leaves a daughter, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren – to whom, Geoff said, he was known as “the greatest grandad”.

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