A POIGNANT tribute has been held to honour the memory of a man buried at Oakworth and to mark a day held dear in his native France.

A special information board was installed at Dockroyd Cemetery commemorating All Saints’ Day – or La Toussaint in France, where it is a public holiday – and remembering Maurice Couffinhal, who was laid to rest in a corner of the site.

Visitors to the graveyard to view the tributes included Keighley’s town mayor, Councillor Peter Corkindale, and the mayoress Cllr Clare Abberton.

It was in July, 1951, that Maurice Couffinhal came to Oakworth to visit friends. He was in England for the Festival of Britain.

Maurice hadn’t met-up with the friends since before the war.

One day during his stay he set off to see a play at Haworth, but collapsed with a brain haemorrhage on the way and died the following day in Keighley’s Victoria Hospital.

Because it would be so expensive to send Maurice’s body back to France, friend Annie Powell gave-up her place allotted in a grave alongside her husband John – and arranged for her own body to be cremated.

Maurice’s widow and his married son Georges travelled over from Paris for his funeral, held at Oakworth Methodist Church.

All the arrangements were made by Maurice’s Oakworth friends and half the service was conducted in French.

Georges described the funeral as “a very sad and emotional event”.

Andrew Heaton, the cemetery owner and chairman of the Dockroyd Graveyard Trust, said: “We wanted to commemorate La Toussaint and remember Maurice, whose father was instrumental in the formation of the twinning of Keighley and Poix-du-Nord.

“We could not have an official event because of Covid but a number of parties including the mayor visited separately.”

Dockroyd trustee Jean Sugden said the display, outlining the story of how Maurice came to be buried there, had sparked a lot of interest.

“We had a busy day – despite very wet weather,” she said.

“We were pleased to welcome the Keighley mayor and mayoress and we also had visits from Pat Dawson – who has been looking after Mr Couffinhal’s grave – and Donna Pickles, whose grandfather Herbert tended the grave for many years.

“Earlier this year we had a visit planned to the graveyard by dignitaries from Poix-du-Nord, the town that was twinned with Keighley in 1920.

“Sadly the visit had to be cancelled because of the present situation, but the trustees of the graveyard still wanted to have some recognition of the day.

“La Toussaint in France is a public holiday when relatives visit the graves of their ancestors and leave flowers.”

The trustees were thanked in a message from Maurice’s grandson Gerard, who lives in Paris.

He said: “Your project and actions are fantastic. We feel so grateful to you and to your whole team. What tremendous work done and what a wonderful project!”