NO POMP, just honest grief hallowed yesterday's remembrance of a man

whose very name confirmed his absence of pretension.

They called him John Smith, unadorned by any middle initial, and from

the earliest that name became a paradox and yet exactly right. For in

him was the gift of Everyman, and that made this John Smith an uncommon


His funeral, too, was to prove exceptional, and that would surely have

surprised him. But since his unexpected death on May 12 another

unexpected, better thing had happened. People, friends and strangers,

allies and opponents, had come together in a manner scarcely imaginable

these days for someone who made his way in the abused craft of politics.

In effect, but unofficially, this was a state funeral, staking out

John Smith's Parish Church of Cluny in Edinburgh's Morningside for a

footnote in the archives of our time. It was a day of unseasonable

chill, dark clouds over the Braid Hills darkening thin sunshine as a

thousand or so mourners gathered behind crush barriers at the junction

of Cluny Avenue and Braid Road.

From 9.30am people had been arriving, the invited dignitaries either

bused in from the Palace of Holyroodhouse, or travelling in limousines

to stand patiently in line before filing into the sandstone purity of

the church.

It was here that John Smith, an elder, worshipped unobtrusively right

up to the last Sunday before he died. The church's physical grandeur is

in its plainness, ornamented only by shafts of light from fine stained

glass windows, the largest depicting the four evangelists by the

pre-Raphaelite artist, Edward Burne-Jones.

By 11am the precision of the arrangements was manifest, the bustle of

arrivals complicated by security demands which some had feared would mar

the day all subtly avoided. Edinburgh's unshowy experience at summit

handling was skilfully brought into play.

''His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that nature

might stand up and say to all the world: This Was a Man,'' proclaimed

the minster, the Rev. George Munro. If a man is defined by his

associates, his mourners strengthen his dimension.

The Prime Minister and Norma Major were in the pews. So were the

Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, the former Prime

Minister Edward Heath, most members of the Shadow Cabinet, ambassadors

and statesmen from overseas, an ecumenical squad of senior churchmen,

those prominent in law, the arts, trade unions and local government.

Those curio entertainers, Fran and Anna, arrived in imperial purple.

That other curio from another palace of varieties, Nicky Fairbairn, came

in the full mourning rig of a Victorian undertaker, with that socialist

bloom of Europe, the red carnation, lighting his grey lapel.

Lord Callaghan, the former Labour Prime Minister, represented the


All morning people assembled, some tearfully, some fixing their

sadness firm behind solemn faces. There was only one soloist during the

service, Kenna Campbell, whose glorious voice singing Psalm 23 in Gaelic

rose into the rafters like a great melodic sob.

And everyone did what Donald Dewar expressed so movingly in his

address: ''At times of loss you remember and remember . . .''

Funerals, by their ritual and tender regard, can help to overcome a

terrible truth, and that vision of the elegant, graceful dignity

suffusing the six bereft Smith women -- Elizabeth, John's wife, their

daughters, Sarah, Jane and Catherine, and his two youngers sisters, Mary

and Annie -- was marked by a silent charge of hope from the crowd that

yesterday's service might bring some comfort to the simple sorrows that

enter every life.

When was there last a funeral like this for a politician? Not Harold

Macmillan's in 1986. Not Anthony Eden's in 1977. People pondered this as

they stood four deep in the road at the corner where the Hermitage bar

overlooks Cluny Avenue. People discussed it, also, as they waited to

move inside the church, recalling that no member at Westminster had

earned such a wide ranging send-off since the state funeral of Churchill

on January 30, 1965.

But if John Smith's public day had all the makings of a national

occasion, it wasn't burdened with pageantry or stuffy acclaim. The death

of a remarkable politician had taken that most private act beyond the

realm of his family, but this gathering of thousands remained impressive

for its intimacy.

And there was laughter. ''Those who remembered him as dark,

sober-suited and safe,'' said Donald Dewar, ''knew not the man. He could

start a party in an empty room, and often did.''

Lord Irvine of Lairg, Shadow Lord Chancellor and a close friend for 30

years, recalled how John Smith would relish the absurd with a wonderful

sense of comedy. And before that address James Gordon, also an old pal

from Glasgow University debating days and now managing director of Radio

Clyde, offered some insight into his friend's infectious love of fun.

He remembered the times when John Smith might regale a spontaneous

soiree, however lofty, with a fine rendition of a Sunday school hymn

from his Ardrishaig childhood, accompanying the words with hand


Seek them out

Get them gone

All the little rabbits in fields of corn.

Envy, jealousy, malice, and pride

They must never in my heart abide.

This was a day when the inter-party truce which had welled up and

across the floor of the Commons last week held good. After the funeral

the Prime Minister and Mrs Major spent 90 minutes at the reception in

Parliament House. There Gordon Brown and many other Labour MPs reached

out to say simply: ''Thank you for coming.''

A day, too, for snatched discussions across borders, with John Major

spotting the SDLP's John Hume from his car and winding down the window

to contemplate with him the developing situation in Northern Ireland.

All this from an Edinburgh pavement.

And Tony Benn hitching a lift back to London in the PM's private

plane. ''You're most welcome, Tony,'' said Mr Major, ''but don't tell

anybody else or they'll all want to come.''

Many MPs travelled from the South at their own expense to honour John

Smith. Many also sent flowers, placed on the lawns outside the church.

Among them, too, were wreaths from prison officers, pink roses from No.

10, gold blooms from Ian Lang and the Scottish Office, and a wreath from

the Ambassdor of the Russian Federation. Glenda Jackson left a small

posy of white freesia on the grass. The Co-operative Movement sent an

emblem worked like an old trade union banner in white and purple petals.

There was a saltire of white and blue flowers and from the Highlands

one hand-written card on a red bouquet which read: ''Remembering John,

Hairy to his childhood friends from Ardrishaig.''

He died on Ascension Day and will be buried today, the eve of

Pentecost, on the island of Iona. The savage pain of sudden loss aside,

he could not have timed it better. John Smith, for Everyman we say, God

bless you.