Musician remembered as ‘Dunmow legend’ gathers hundreds in emotional goodbye
- Credit: Supplied by family
A well-known guitarist who lived in Great Dunmow his whole life is remembered as “legend” by local people.
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.
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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.”
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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.
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’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.