St Mary’s church was packed out on Saturday as local townsfolk, friends, former colleagues and representatives from Sussex sport came to pay their respects to the man affectionately known as ‘Mr Horsham’.
On what would have been his eighty-eighth birthday, it was fitting that the memorial service for our much-loved club president Frank King should take place within a stone’s throw of his birthplace; within the very walls in which he had been christened, married, and became verger of during a long and rewarding association with the church.
Great tribute was made throughout the service to Frank’s selflessness and consideration to others and that was never more evident than the fact that, in the weeks leading up to his untimely passing, Frank planned the entire service to ‘save others the worry’, the centrepiece of which was a beautiful floral display in, of course, the green and yellow colours of the football club he had served so faithfully for more than seven decades.
Former players Den Strudwick, Ron Fuller, Ian Dunscombe, Roy Osborne, Duncan Green and Gary Charman, current Hornets boss Dom Di Paola and Chris Adams, who captained Frank’s other sporting ‘love’ Sussex County Cricket Club to its first ever title back in 2003, sat alongside supporters of the football club – many, like members of the choir, wearing club scarves – and listened to Hornets chairman Kevin Borrett deliver a very personal tribute to Frank, in which he expressed his gratitude for the president’s support and encouragement during his ten year tenure. Kevin echoed the thoughts of all associated with the club when he expressed his sadness and regret that Frank would not get to see his beloved Horsham FC play at the new ground but received wholehearted approval when announcing that the club had agreed to name the boardroom at the new Hop Oast Stadium as the Frank King Suite. It will be, said Kevin, a fitting tribute to a man whose warm and welcoming personality had helped shape Horsham Football Club into its rightful reputation as ‘the friendly club’.
Appropriately there was a rousing rendition of ‘Abide With Me’, the unofficial hymn of football fans across the country, before Canon Guy Bridgewater presented a very heartfelt sermon that reflected on his long-standing friendship with the man who became affectionately known within the church as ‘The Blessed St Francis’. ‘On the Queen’s birthday, it’s fitting that we come together today to pay tribute to a King’ Canon Bridgewater began, before suggesting how much the local traffic wardens would miss Frank, whose ‘confident and unique driving skills’ and penchant for parking wherever and whenever he felt appropriate, provoked much amusement among the gathered masses. The Canon also spoke of Frank’s many meetings with the Royal Family, of his own excitement of the football club’s historic FA Cup ties with Swansea City, and Frank’s long devotion to the church. But the main emphasis of the sermon centred around Frank’s selfless personality. ‘Pure in heart’, Frank ‘owned and embraced the church family’, he said, and was a ‘surrogate father and grandfather to so many people’ and who, aside from his overwhelming generosity, had that most precious of virtues – the ‘gift of time’. Frank was one who gave great encouragement to those he met, continued Canon Bridgewater whose very genuine admiration and affection towards Frank was clear and irrefutable as the current Rector of Bath Abbey fought back tears on the conclusion of his sermon.
The choir brought the service to an end with a most beautiful delivery of Holy Heavenly Love before everyone retired to the nearby barn where many more tales were shared of Frank’s full and remarkable life.