RETIRED rabbit catcher Peter Willis enjoyed the country life.

So when he knew he was dying of cancer, his son Philip asked him if he thought a horse-drawn hearse would be appropriate for his funeral.

Mr Willis senior agreed and it was a cob horse that led the cortege through Brightwell-cum- Sotwell, near Wallingford, to the funeral at St Agatha’s Church.

Decked with spring blooms of yellow and white, the horsedrawn hearse wound its way through the village on Thursday, taking the much-loved dad through the streets he grew up in for one last time.

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Philip, 58, said: “Dad enjoyed country pursuits all his life – he knew all the local farmers – and enjoyed greyhound racing, shooting, breeding Jack Russells, Labradors and Welsh Springer Spaniels.

“So I thought a horse-drawn hearse would be appropriate and Howard Chadwick funeral parlour arranged it for me.

“Before Dad died I mentioned the idea to him and he said ‘whatever you want to do you have my blessing’.

“I think it cost about £1,000 to have a horse-drawn hearse – it’s an expensive part of the funeral.

“Lots of people from the village turned out to watch and the church was packed – there were about 150 people there.”

Oxford Mail:

Peter Willis.

Mr Willis was born in Brightwell- cum-Sotwell in 1934, and worked as a cowhand at Mackney Court Farm from 1956 to 1969.

He married Jenny Bennett at St Agatha’s Church in 1956 and their son Philip was born the following year.

The couple then moved to Ewelme near Wallingford in 1970.

Mr Willis worked for the Woodcote District Rabbit Clearance Society before he established the firm Advanced Pest Control in the 1980s. Following his retirement Mr Willis ran a pheasant shoot at Cowfields Farm, Rotherfield Greys, near Henley.

After contracting throat cancer, he was cared for by staff at the Sue Ryder Home in Nettlebed and died aged 80 on February 27. His wife Jenny died aged 68 in 2004.

Philip, who has worked in catering, added that during his father’s last days at the Sue Ryder home, he and his father reminisced about walking across Mackney Court farmyard to milk the cows.

The father-of-four, who lives in Henley with his wife Carol, added: “In October last year dad was diagnosed with cancer, an illness he feared the most.

“He had a spell in hospital over Christmas, followed by a couple of weeks at home, then back to hospital, then transferred to the Sue Ryder Home at Nettlebed for the remainder of his days.

“While he was there he had a stream of visitors and was so pleased to see each and every one.”