West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Jethro’s last laugh: Coffin of Cornish comedy legend leaves his funeral in hearse with J35STER number plate after his death to Covid – as partner of 38 years says he was always a ‘countryman’ not a ‘showman’

  • Popular Cornish comedian Jethro, real name Geoffrey Rowe, died from coronavirus at age of 73 last month
  • Funeral service took place at Truro Cathedral at midday after a procession from Lewdown, in Okehampton
  • His manager said the popular comic was double vaccinated and had received booster before he caught virus

By Katie Feehan For Mailonline and PA Media

Published: 11:00, 3 January 2022 | Updated: 16:13, 3 January 2022

Thousands of mourners lined the streets to pay tribute to ‘unique’ Cornish comedian, Jethro, at his funeral which took place this afternoon at Truro Cathedral where friend and fellow comic Jim Davidson lead tributes to the popular funnyman.

The Cornish comic lost a short battle with coronavirus on December 14 at the age of 73.

Real name Geoffrey Rowe, the comedy star built his name in the 1980s and 1990s, only announcing his retirement in 2020 after almost 50 years of touring.

Paying tribute to him today, Jethro’s partner Jennie said his death had left ‘a big void’ in their lives.

His partner of 38 years added: ‘He was a countryman, he loved his horses, he loved the countryside and he was the same indoors as he was on the show.

‘He was just a normal person. He used to go to his shows and he would never sit in the dressing room, he would always sit in his truck and he would smoke a pipe. He wasn’t a real showman – showman.

‘He loved the local pub.

He’d go down every night to the local pub. He just loved the local people and he was genuinely a home person really.

‘He knew every part of Cornwall. He’d take me all over Cornwall and say this is where my dad built a wall, and he’d show me the walls his dad built.

‘We were together 38 years, you know it was a long time.

He’s left a big void in our lives.’ 

A funeral procession set off from Lewdown, Okehampton, at 10am on Monday, and travelled through Lifton before going on to Truro where a procession was held at the War Memorial.

Thousands of people gathered along the route of his final journey from his former Jethro’s Club in Lewdown on the Devon border with Cornwall, down the A30 to Truro Cathedral.

The service, at Truro Cathedral, began at around midday and was conducted by the Reverend Canon Alan Bashforth and Reverend Tim Hodge.

Jethro’s family have have asked for donations in his memory to be made to Children’s Hospice South West charity

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

The funeral of popular Cornish comedian Jethro, real name Geoffrey Rowe, took place Truro Cathedral this afternoon following his death from Covid-19 last month.

Pictured: The car carrying the coffin, with number plate J35TER, arrives

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

The car carrying the coffin, with personalised number plate J35TER, arrives for the funeral at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Mourners line the streets of Truro as family and friends arrive for the funeral of Cornish comic Jethro who died last month

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: Crowds of mourners gathered outside Truro Cathedral, in Cornwall, ahead of the funeral for Cornish comic Jethro

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Friend and fellow comic Jim Davidson (pictured) led tributes to Jethro during the funeral service in Truro this afternoon

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: Mourners arrive for the funeral of Cornish comedian Jethro at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall this afternoon

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

The funeral cortege leads the mourners as they arrive for the funeral after a procession began at Lewdown, Okehampton

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: Parts of Devon and Cornwall came to a standstill this morning as the procession made its way to Truro Cathedral

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

A donation box for Children’s Hospice South West at the funeral of Cornish comedian Jethro at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: Family and friends of comedian Jethro arrive at Truro Cathedral, in Cornwall, ahead of his funeral service

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: Pallbearers carry the coffin into the funeral of Cornish comedian Jethro at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall

Jethro was placed in a wicker basket on a Cornish tartan in the final Landcruiser, his beloved car, which had been especially adapted – like the Duke of Edinburgh did with his Land Rover for his funeral.

Among the crowd at Truro Cathedral were three brothers called Rowe – who were not related – but had travelled from their homes in France, Scotland and Cornwall to pay their respects to the proud Cornish funnyman.

Banners hung from bridges on the route and the cathedral was packed with people wearing tartan, Cornish rugby shirts and St Piran flags – and a round of applause rang out as the hearse arrived.

Jethro’s partner Jennie and sons Jesse and Lanyon led the mourners at the cathedral service which was opened up to the public, before going onto a private family burial service.

Outside one woman wept: ‘He is incredible and we will never see his like again.’

A man said: ‘He was a brilliant comedian, a hell of a guy.’

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: Mourners packed a public funeral service at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall before a private family service later today

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Reverend Canon Alan Bashforth leads the funeral service of Cornish comedian Jethro at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Hundreds of mourners packed into Truro Cathedral for the funeral of Cornish comedian Jethro, real name Geoffrey Rowe

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

A mourner holds an order of service (pictured) at the funeral of Cornish comedian Jethro at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Hymns including The Old Rugged Cross and Trelawny were sung accompanied by Cornish folk band The Oggymen

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Mourners watch as Jethro’s wicker coffin is carried by pallbearers out of Truro Cathedral after the funeral service

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: pallbearers carry out Jethro’s wicker coffin after the public funeral service at Truro Cathedral this afternoon

Jethro’s wicker coffin had been transported in a black Toyota 4×4 with a number plate reading J35TER, resting on a Cornish tartan blanket.

He was then carried into the church by six pallbearers to the song Welcome To My World, by Jim Reeves.

Reverend Canon Alan Bashforth and Reverend Tim Hodge who led the service called Jethro ‘one of Cornwall’s most significant people of recent times’.

Rev Hodge then spoke of Jethro’s life, describing him as a ‘well-loved and cantankerous character’.

His long-time manager and friend John Miles MBE detailed Jethro’s rise to stardom, but said: ‘Fame never changed Jethro.’

Mr Miles’s anecdotes included Jethro having to clean up his explicit act to perform for the Queen and her friends at Ascot Racecourse and that the Prince of Wales, who he met and performed for on a number of occasions, joked that the comedian owned more land in Cornwall than him.

Mr Miles added: ‘There will never ever be another Jethro.

‘You gave us so much enjoyment Jethro, bless you. Rest in Peace.’

Hymns including The Old Rugged Cross and the traditional song Trelawny were sung, accompanied by Cornish folk band The Oggymen.

And a poem called, Ever Since I Heard The News, written by Paul Jackson in tribute to Jethro from the point of view of his fans, was read out and included the words: ‘Oh I laughed each time I saw you, so much I almost cried.

‘Tears fell once again this week, when I heard that you had died.

‘The cream of British comedy, lesser mortals were in awe.

And every time I saw you, I simply wanted more.’

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: Jim Davidson speaks during the funeral service of Cornish comedian Jethro at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Jim Davidson (right) speaks during the funeral service and had the crowds laughing with anecdotes about the popular comic

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: Members of the Oggymen Cornish Choir perform in Truro Cathedral during Jethro’s funeral service

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: the coffin of Cornish comedian Jethro is carried out of Truro Cathedral in Cornwall following his funeral

It was followed by an eulogy by friend and fellow stand-up comedian Jim Davidson who induced burst of laughter from the attendees by regaling them with tales about Jethro’s performances and how he viewed the world.

But Mr Davidson also spoke emotionally of a hope that he would one day see his friend again, and said: ‘I look at it this way, my old boy, what a caterpillar calls death a wise man calls a butterfly, so you go fly Geoff.’

Jethro was then carried from the cathedral to tune of his own rendition of Red Rocks And White Waters, written by Franc Yonco.

A private burial was to be held for immediate family members only including his life partner Jennie, sons Jesse and Lanyon, stepdaughter Sarah, daughter-in-law Stacey and his grandchildren.

During the service a brown leather bag was placed on his coffin, which was said to have gone with him for every appearance he made, but its contents have been and will remain a secret.

Large crowds had also gathered outside to hear the speeches and loudspeakers were set up for those unable to fit inside the historic building

Speaking shortly before the service, canon chancellor for Truro Cathedral Rev Alan Bashforth said: ‘Funerals are about celebrating a person’s life and giving thanks for that life. Some of his friends will be speaking and telling stories about him.

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Hundreds of mourners surrounded the cathedral in Truro to listen to eulogies and tributes read out during the funeral service

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

The coffin of comic Jethro is carried out of Truro Cathedral in Cornwall and put in the back of the personalised Range Rover

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

After the ceremony the family will stage a small private burial and there will be no formal wake due to the pandemic

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: Members of the public outside Truro Cathedral in Cornwall before Jethro’s funeral service earlier today

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Banners hung from bridges and the cathedral was packed with people wearing tartan, Cornish rugby shirts and St Piran flags

‘As well as a tear or two I expect quite a lot of laughter in this place that will reflect the kind of life he had.

‘At the same time we will come together in common human solidarity to stand with a grieving family and we will remember them in our prayers. We pray Jethro has found rest and peace in god’s presence.’

Over 5,000 people tuned in to watch the service which was broadcast virtually on YouTube by his friend and driver Andy Reed. 

His family have have asked for donations in his memory to be made to Children’s Hospice South West. 

Manager John Miles said Mr Rowe had battled Hodgkin Lymphoma two years ago but was in remission and was otherwise in good health when he caught the virus. 

Speaking shortly after his death, Mr Miles said: ‘They did all they could do – it was just so aggressive and fast.’

He told MailOnline Mr Rowe was fully vaccinated and had had a booster jab but contracted the virus just 10 days before his death. 

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Comedian Jethro, real name Geoffrey Rowe, who was famed for his west country take on life died after battling Covid-19

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

The much loved 73-year-old comic (pictured, left, and, right, with boxer Chris Eubank) shot to fame in Cornwall in the 1980s and made his first TV appearance in 1990 on the Des O’Connor Show and later appeared on Jim Davidson’s programmes

Paying tribute to his friend of more than 40 years, Mr Miles said Jethro brought a lot of joy to millions of people.

He added: ‘He was a lovely guy, a very kind guy and very funny.

At least he brought a lot of enjoyment to many people.’

Friend and fellow comic Jim Davidson is expected to lead tributes at the service this afternoon. 

In a video tribute shared last month, he said: ‘We’re all broken-hearted. It is devastating. It’s an understatement to say we’re broken-hearted.

‘We’re all in shock.

These things happen so quickly.

‘He was a great comedian, Jethro. He just liked to tell jokes – his timing was immaculate.

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Pictured: Jethro was fully vaccinated and had received a booster before he contracted Covid and died in hospital 10 days later

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

Cornishman Jethro (pictured) shot to fame in the 80s and made his first TV appearance in 1990 on the Des O’Connor Show

West Country waves goodbye to Cornish comedy legend Jethro

In December 2020, Jethro (pictured) announced he was ‘hanging up my mic’ and retiring from the comedy circuit

‘He was unique, he didn’t follow fashion, certainly not. But I never met anyone who had a bad word to say about him and that’s the measure of a man for me.

‘A great guy and I’ll miss him.

We’re going to do a tribute for him on Christmas Day.’

Born in St Buryan, the youngest of four children, he first worked as a carpenter’s apprentice and then for a time down one of the mines that were still working in Cornwall at that time.

He loved rugby, playing for the Penzance Pirates, and clay pigeon shooting, winning the English Open in 1990, but his main passion was performing.

Jethro built his name as a comedian in the 1980s and 1990s with his brand of observational comedy, rocketing to fame after making his first national television appearance on the Des O’Connor Show.

In 2001, he performed in the Royal Variety Show and went on to become one of the biggest stars from Cornwall selling over four million DVDs.

He only announced his retirement in 2020 after almost 50 years of touring.

He was due to perform his last tour dates but they were later postponed due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.