Tributes are paid to much-loved Peterborough busker

Peterborough city centre busker Laurence Meachen, pictured in 2004. Photo: Paul Franks/Peterborough ET
Peterborough city centre busker Laurence Meachen, pictured in 2004. Photo: Paul Franks/Peterborough ET
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Tributes have been paid to a much-loved Peterborough busker Laurence Meachen, who has died following a courageous fight against cancer.

Laurence (79), of Southfields Drive, Stanground, Peterborough died earlier this month after a year-long battle against stomach cancer, having been given only six months to live at the time of his diagnosis.

The accordionist, affectionately known as “Jock”, would have been familiar to countless shoppers, tourists and city centre workers for his years busking in Bridge Street and Cathedral Square in Peterborough and across East Anglia.

Following his funeral on Wednesday, his widow Elizabeth (71) and fellow buskers paid tribute to his memory.

Mrs Meachen said: “Everybody loved him. He was a gentleman, he never had a cross word for anybody. He was well thought of wherever he went. Even if he went to the likes of King’s Lynn, they would say ‘hiya Jock’.”

The great-grandfather-of-two, who was originally from Scotland, came to Peterborough in 1973 where he worked as a lorry driver until his retirement.

During this period, the former professional musician would play in pubs and clubs and at occasions such as weddings.

However, following his retirement he took his talent to the streets, performing as far afield as Wisbech, King’s Lynn, Bourne, Spalding, Great Yarmouth and Skegness, while Mrs Meachen visited the shops.

She said: “He loved to drive and we would jump in the car, put the accordion in the back and wherever he decided to stop – Corby, Market Harborough, Melton Mowbray – he would ask if he could busk for the hour and I would do the shops.

“He just loved music.”

On Wednesday, to coincide with the date of Mr Meachen’s funeral, fellow buskers from the city performed on one of his regular patches outside Bonmarche, in Bridge Street, beside some floral tributes.

Donations from the two-and-a-half hour session went to Mrs Meachen to help towards funeral costs or for a charity of her choice.

Guitarist Eddie Walker (41), has been busking in the city for seven years.

He said: “The town has lost one of its most famous faces.

“I have known Jock ever since I started busking in town.

“He pointed me in the right direction. He showed me where all the different places were, saying ‘this place works’, ‘this place works on a rainy day’, ‘go here on a sunny day’. He got me started.

“He could play anything, absolutely anything. The man was a musical genius.”

Also taking part in the musical tribute to Mr Meachen was accordionist Trevor Townsend (62), of Stonald Road, Whittlesey.

Mr Townsend has been busking in Peterborough for only a week, to raise funds for charity, but he knew Mr Meachen for many years after they bonded over their love of the accordion.

He said: “We were friends. We got on very well.

“He was a brilliant player and a very nice chap.”

Mrs Meachen, who with her husband had two sons, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, gave thanks to all those who had high-regard for her late husband and said she was touched by the buskers’ tribute.

She said: “It was fantastic. When they are busking they are often busking because they need the money.

“I thought it was very, very kind of them. It makes me proud that they thought that much of him.”