Heart-shaped blue balloons lined the fence of Lymore Cricket Ground last Friday as up to 2,000 people turned out to join a celebration of the life of James Corfield.
Emotional tributes were paid to the young farmer and Montgomery Cricket Club star at the ground he last played at just four weeks previously.
The 19-year-old went missing on the night of Monday, July 24, while staying at the Royal Welsh Show. His body was found in the River Wye the following Sunday.
All dressed in blue, the colour James was wearing when he went missing, his friends, family and community were not deterred by the rain as they turned out in their droves to remember him.
The ceremony began with the song ‘Electric Dreams’ before Town Crier Sue Blower addressed the crowd.
She said: “This is an extremely sad day. Today we are here to remember James William Bernard Corfield.
“There are so many happy memories to share, so many stories to share, but most of all, so much love to share.”
With parents Bryan (George) and Louise watching on from the front row, the tributes were led by James’ siblings Tom and Emma, who both described a brother who was also a friend, and a “genius”.
Tom said: “James was a kind, generous and wonderful person.
“His greatest love was farming, especially poultry. James was always planning the next step or the next area of farming to conquer.
“James’ other love was sport, especially football, cricket and tennis. His favourite and best sport was cricket. As young boys we would be playing cricket wherever possible, in the cow shed and in the house.
“I’m sure there was much more to come from him.
“Goodbye James, you were genius.”
Tom’s heartfelt words were echoed by 11-year-old Emma, who was next to take to the stage in front of the packed pavilion.
She said: “You were an absolute genius who many looked up to.
“You were my role model and always encouraged me. You were a fantastic brother and also a great friend.
“The memories between us are unreal. We spent hours together, playing, working and generally having fun.
“You will be so missed by everyone, and we hope you know we will always remember you and we will treasure our memories.
“Rest in peace James, you were a genius and they say the best die young. Goodbye James, we love you.”
During the hour-long ceremony, poems were read by James’ aunt and cousins. Music was also played, including ‘Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur’ and the cricket theme tune - a reflection of his great love of sport.
Montgomery Cricket Club chairman John Barker spoke of watching a young Jimmy - as he was affectionately known by his teammates - rise through the youth teams alongside Tom, with young Emma now following in their footsteps.
“People remember him as a small child, sneaking into the tea room to sit on George’s lap,” said Mr Barker.
“He started youth coaching at the age of four, he played in the under-nines in 2007 and would go on to play in all the youth sides as he got older.
“James was always here, even when he wasn’t playing, as he had said to me this was his second home.
“On the field he gave 100 per cent. He was competitive on the pitch but polite and modest off it.”
In 2016 he won Montgomery Cricket Club’s batting and bowling cups, as well as being named the Shropshire League’s young player of the year.
In a speech read by Mr Barker, club Captain Sam Williams said: “His passion and dedication were second to none, and this was shown week in week out.
“He leaves big boots to fill. James was only 19 and he was one of our best players.
“He loved this place, as all the Corfields do, and we loved him back.
“Thank you James, for your time spent with us.”
James’ cousin Patrick Wilding, also a teammate and close friend, was among the family members to share personal memories of James growing up.
He said: “I don’t have a brother, however James was just like my little brother.
“He had made so many forthcoming plans and had such a bright future ahead of him.
“It gives me exceptional delight to have shared James’ final game at this very ground.
“James will always be in my thoughts and I will always be stepping onto the cricket pitch knowing he is by my side.”
Among the other speakers were former college tutor Kathryn Morris, who said James was “everything you would want in a student,” and “made me a better teacher”, and family friend John Soule, who said: “James celebrated life, at sport, work and play.”
Lifelong friend Harry Long also paid tribute to James, who he first met at the age of three.
“He was the first person I would go to no matter what,” he said.
“I won’t forget you Jimmy, you were one of a kind. You were my brother as well as my best friend.
“I will miss you mate, I know you will be keeping me out of trouble while you’re up there.”
After the speeches, Sue Blower relayed the Corfield family’s thanks for all the support shown to them over the most difficult month, before everyone made their way to the marquee for traditional cricket teas.
The ceremony ended with Gary Barlow’s ‘Let Me Go’, the song ringing out across the cricket ground as tears were wiped away and the rain clouds cleared from the sky.
See full story in the County Times