Fitting farewell in a horse-drawn hearse

Funeral of Kenneth Simmons at Carleton Crematorium.
Funeral of Kenneth Simmons at Carleton Crematorium.
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HE spent his whole life working with horses – so it was only appropriate Ken Simmons’ final journey saw him accompanied by some of the animals he loved.

Mr Simmons, 63, who died on June 1 after a long illness, had been a landau driver and donkey operator in the resort since his teens.

The families who run donkey rides on Blackpool beach are protesting against council plans which would mean them being responsible for cleaning up after their animals.'David (left) and Ken Simmons, with David the donkey and a large bucket. PIC BY ROB LOCK

The families who run donkey rides on Blackpool beach are protesting against council plans which would mean them being responsible for cleaning up after their animals.'David (left) and Ken Simmons, with David the donkey and a large bucket. PIC BY ROB LOCK

He was also the first man in Blackpool to drive a modern horse-drawn hearse.

Mr Simmons’ own cortege saw his coffin carried to Carleton Crematorium in a dray pulled by one of his own landau horses, a white mare called Princess.

It was followed by a landau carriage, while a group of beach donkeys wearing black sashes joined the funeral procession at Carleton Crossing for the final portion of the journey yesterday.

Mr Simmons, of Chislehurst Avenue, South Shore, who was born in Blackpool, was a blacksmith who shoed his own horses.

During his life he had also driven a carriage during celebrations to mark Preston Guild.

His son Lee said: “He worked with horses all his life and started driving a landau when he was 18, and also had beach donkeys.

“He was out at all times, during the Illuminations and through the season. It’s a 52-weeks of the year job.

“He was never a rich fellow, except in family and friends and he loved his horses. It’s an age-old business and we have all been brought up with it.

“Whenever someone wanted a horse drawn hearse, Box Brothers would ask dad to be the driver. It’s not easy to drive two horses in a harness and keep them under control.

“He bred a foal called Drummer Boy, who was one of his landau horses and he died only two months ago, aged 27. Dad loved that horse and when he died, dad who had been ill for about 18 months, went downhill.

“He will be missed by a lot of people but we are continuing the business, with myself and my brothers carrying on with the landaus and the donkeys.”

In 2002, the Simmons’ donkeys won awards at Blackpool Council’s annual ‘donkey Oscars’. Mr Simmons leaves a widow Kristine, five sons and two grandaughters.