Musician remembered as ‘Dunmow legend’ gathers hundreds in emotional goodbye

PUBLISHED: 08:00 30 July 2020

Jay Wiffen. Photo: Supplied by family.

Jay Wiffen. Photo: Supplied by family.

Supplied by family

A well-known guitarist who lived in Great Dunmow his whole life is remembered as “legend” by local people.

Centre: Jay aged two held by his aunt, Sally. Above: Pat holding baby Mark. Bottom left to right: cousin Brenda and Sylvie. Photo: Supplied by family.Centre: Jay aged two held by his aunt, Sally. Above: Pat holding baby Mark. Bottom left to right: cousin Brenda and Sylvie. Photo: Supplied by family.

Born in a family with “Dunmow roots” in 1962, Gerard Wiffen, known as Jay or The Jayster, was the son of Chad and Pat Wiffen, who lived in Dunmow for most of their lives.

Jay grew up in Market Place with older sister Sylvie and younger brother Mark, building many happy childhood memories. The family moved to New Street Fields when Jay was seven years old.

He went to school at Dunmow Primary School in Rosemary Lane and then Helena Romanes. As a teenager, Jay pursued his love for fishing at Doctors Pond.

After leaving school, Jay worked for several well-known Dunmow firms, including Dunmow Flitch Bacon Factory and Carr & Day & Martin.

Left to right top row - Jay and cousin Stephen; Bottom row - Sylvie, Mark and cousin Susan. Photo: Supplied by family.Left to right top row - Jay and cousin Stephen; Bottom row - Sylvie, Mark and cousin Susan. Photo: Supplied by family.

Although his day jobs took him only as far as Bishop’s Stortford and Rayne because he wanted to be close to his loved ones, his music took him all over the world.

His sister, Sylvie Hudson, remembers: “His love of music began in the punk era. He was in many bands and the most famous one is The Cannibals. Jay went with them to Spain, France, Japan, so many different countries.”

The most recent music groups Jay was part of are Alan’s Leg and the Wonkey Donkeys.

Jay sometimes sang. “He had a deep, gravelly voice, and people always knew when he was about because of his voice,” Sylvie said.

Infant school photo of Jay at Dunmow Primary School on Rosemary Lane. Photo: Supplied by family.Infant school photo of Jay at Dunmow Primary School on Rosemary Lane. Photo: Supplied by family.

Jay was supporting his own music through his painter job, but, because of Covid-19, he took good care of his mum, 80, and his dad, 81, in recent months.

Sylvie said Jay was funny, talented and very much loved. One could easily see this as 200 people, including Cannibals members Mike Spenser and Patrice Picard, lined Great Dunmow during Jay’s funeral procession. It was led by Craig Knott of Daniel Robinson throughout the town.

“He was so popular. There was clapping, cheering, people crying, it was such an emotional journey,” said Sylvie.

Jay passed away aged 57 on June 4 of natural causes. He left behind mother Pat, father Chad, brother Mark, sister Sylvie, nieces and nephews, and many great friends. A funeral service was held on July 17 with 20 people because of coronavirus restrictions, but a live webcast was available.

Jay Wiffen. Photo: Supplied by family.Jay Wiffen. Photo: Supplied by family.

Jay’s funeral was filled with his biggest love, music, including a Cannibals song called “Nothing takes the place of you” as the reflection song.

After the ceremony, Jay’s life was celebrated at The Chequers, his go-to place when he wanted to go to the pub.

Jay Wiffen performing at the Dunmow Snooker Club. Photo: Supplied by Stefano Stabellini.Jay Wiffen performing at the Dunmow Snooker Club. Photo: Supplied by Stefano Stabellini.

Jay wearing his favourite shirt. Photo: Supplied by family.Jay wearing his favourite shirt. Photo: Supplied by family.

Jay in a rare serious moment. Photo: Supplied by family.Jay in a rare serious moment. Photo: Supplied by family.

Craig Knott from Daniel Robinson & Sons in Great Dunmow, leading Jay's funeral procession along Dunmow High Street on July 17. Photo: Bryan Haines.Craig Knott from Daniel Robinson & Sons in Great Dunmow, leading Jay's funeral procession along Dunmow High Street on July 17. Photo: Bryan Haines.


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