Portsmouth to commemorate Covid-19 deaths with cathedral service on National Day of Reflection

A YEAR on from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed hundreds of lives across Portsmouth and the surrounding area, relatives hope to find ‘closure’ thanks to a special service at Portsmouth Cathedral.

By Richard Lemmer
Saturday, 13th March 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Saturday, 13th March 2021, 12:50 pm

Portsmouth Cathedral in Old Portsmouth is to extend its opening hours for visitors to light a candle and reflect on the toll of the pandemic, during the National Day of Reflection on March 23, the anniversary of the first national lockdown.

A special service will also be broadcast from the cathedral’s Facebook and YouTube accounts on the day at 11.45am.

Relatives of those lost to Covid-19 say it will bring some solace to grieving families across the city and beyond.

Picture: Dan Tidbury © Portsmouth Cathedral 2020

One bereaved relative said the day of reflection is a 'brilliant idea' for families who have never had closure.

Malcolm Mason lost his twin brother and life-long business partner George last year, as he became one of the first people in the area to die of the coronavirus.

The Gosport barber died on March 25, just two days after lockdown began – meaning any plans for a funeral were thrown into disarray.

Malcolm said: 'We never had a funeral for George because they just took him away instead, so we've had no chance to properly say goodbye and no real closure. That's been one of the hardest things about it all.

George Mason from Gosport

'As a family we'll do something in memory of George after the pandemic, possibly on the beach, but in the meantime it will be great to have some sort of memorial like this to remember him by.

‘(The service) sounds like a really nice thing for Portsmouth Cathedral to do.’

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Sue Foulsham, also from Gosport, lost her daughter and mother-of-three, Emma Dickinson, on Easter Sunday last year.

Emma Dickinson from Gosport

The 35-year-old care worker, who suffered from kidney failure, spent three weeks on a ventilator in Queen Alexandra Hospital after contracting Covid-19.

Sue said the cathedral service was ‘a good idea’ for bringing the community together – and hopes that Portsmouth will be an example for other cities.

She said: ‘Hopefully this will be done all over England.

‘A national televised event that everyone can see would also be good.

Portsmouth Cathedral will join the National Day of Remembrance on March 23. Picture: Dan Tidbury © Portsmouth Cathedral 2020

‘We all light a candle every Sunday and on the 12th of every month, because that’s when Emma passed away. It’s still really hard.’

It comes as the city’s Covid Memorial Trust, which includes representatives from the council and the NHS, plans to build a memorial after consulting with the community.

Councillor Steve Pitt, cabinet member for culture, leisure and economic development, said: ‘There’s no firm plans at this stage as we feel it’s inappropriate when people are still losing their lives.

‘At the appropriate time, we will ask the community for their views.

‘A memorial wood is one of the possibilities suggested. Personally, I would like to see a living memorial.’

Picture: Dan Tidbury © Portsmouth Cathedral 2020

With almost 900 deaths at Queen Alexandra Hospital and hundreds of city residents losing their lives, it is ‘absolutely right’ that the city commemorates the lives lost throughout the pandemic, according to Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We’ve lost over 300 residents to Covid. It’s absolutely right that we remember all those people.’

The Very Rev’d Dr Anthony Cane, Dean of Portsmouth, added: ‘It is hard to express the extent of the grief involved with the loss of so many lives as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

'Each person leaves behind a gap in their network of family and friends that can never be filled.

'Over the past year, many have come to Portsmouth Cathedral to light a candle in memory of a departed loved one, and our pastoral support team has offered solace and support to those who have been bereaved.

'This National Day of Reflection, all are welcome to offer a prayer and light a candle at the Cathedral during our extended opening hours, as we pause, reflect and remember.'

The cathedral will be extending its opening hours on Tuesday, March 23, opening from 10am to 9.00pm for those wanting to offer a prayer, reflect, or light a candle.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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