Beloved pillar of Portsmouth's Sikh community Dewan Singh is given a guard of honour for his funeral
EMOTIONAL tributes have been paid to a ‘charismatic’ pillar of Portsmouth’s Sikh community and beloved family man.
Dewan Singh, 97, was given a spectacular send-off by his mourning family, who turned out in their dozens to mark his funeral.
Mr Singh was the island’s oldest Sikh having first arrived in the UK in the 1950s before calling Portsmouth his home in the 1970s.
Described as a ‘hugely respected and admired figure’, he played a pivotal role in setting up the city’s first Sikh temple.
And in a fitting farewell, Mr Singh was given a ceremonial guard of honour outside his family home in Blossom Square, Portsea.
Nineteen of his 45 grandchildren provided the traditional Sikh armed guard, carrying ceremonial swords and wearing blue robes and turban, with an orange sash.
Dozens of women and children from Mr Singh’s family lined King William Street as his casket made its way to his former home.
Most sang a traditional Sikh prayer while some wept openly, being consoled by relatives, as Mr Singh’s casket was carefully removed and placed inside his old address.
Outside, curious neighbours stood respectfully from their windows or the pavement to witness the spectacle, which involved close to 100 mourning family members.
Among them was Mr Singh’s long-term neighbours, Denise Monagham, 81, and Pam Smith, 83, who have lived next to him for more than 40 years.
Denise said: ‘He was a truly marvellous man and a real legend in the community. He was really respected. He has a beautiful family and seeing them all here today is overwhelming. It goes to show how loved he was.’
Mr Singh was transported from his home in horse-drawn carriage, where his casket was given a final tour of the city, travelling along the Southsea coastline, through Albert Road and to the Sikh temple in Margate Road.
His grandson, Jung Singh, was part of the guard of honour and paid tribute to his beloved relative before the funeral procession.
The 41-year-old said: ‘He was very charismatic and a real leader. He was a role model for the community and a spiritual warrior.
‘He was the last of his generation left, everyone his age had gone. He was the last of the Mohicans – the last of his kind and the last of his dynasty. There is nobody else like him.’
Born on April 11, 1924, Dewan lived in India and became a wrestling champion before he moved to England in the 1950s in search for a better quality of life, leaving behind his family.
Once he arrived, he worked as a door-to-door salesman, having taught himself English. But a lover of Sikh spiritualism, he would often provide passing words of wisdom to customers.
Eventually he managed to raise enough money to bring his mother, wife and two children at that time over from India, to their first home in Mayo Road, Portsmouth.
Mr Singh took up work at Portsmouth dockyard, where he remained until he retired.
But soon tragedy struck, with the unexpected death of his first wife, He later remarried and his family grew to 10 children. He moved into Blossom Square in 1977.
However, being the only Indian family in the area, he faced racism and persecution, with racist National Front activists graffitiing the side of his house with ‘NF’ - the faded white paint of which still remains on his three-storey end-of-terrace.
Jung said: ‘Granddad sat tight through all of it and told his sons to do the same. The initial setting here was really rough, we were the only Indian family and stood out like a sore thumb, especially being Sikhs.’
Eventually the family tackled the racism head on and are now hugely respected members within Portsea.
At 42, Mr Singh became a fully baptised Sikh and helped set up the city’s Gudwara, providing teaching at the temple in Margate Road before helping to unite the city’s growing Sikh community.
Once retired, Mr Singh continued to help others, regularly attending Kingston Prison as a Sikh minister to hold services for prisoners.
Mr Singh leaves behind 45 grandchildren, 70 great-grandchildren and 18 great-great-grandchildren.