Man takes grandad's ashes for 'special' Ilkeston train ride

James Clifton with his granddad's ashes Image copyright Michael Banton
Image caption James Clifton with his grandfather David Hardy's ashes

David Hardy was delighted to learn the railway station was reopening in his home town of Ilkeston after 50 years - and vowed to be on one of the first trains.

But the retired butcher died of cancer at the age of 71 more than a year ago.

So when the station finally opened in the Derbyshire town, his grandson decided to take his ashes on board the train instead.

"He got his wish," said James Clifton. "He would have loved it."

Image copyright Michael Banton
Image caption David Hardy ran a butchers' shop in Ilkeston for three decades

Mr Hardy lived in Ilkeston all his life, running a local butchers' shop for more than 30 years, and thought it "sad" that having once had three railway stations the town had been left with none.

Ilkeston had no train service for half a century, making it one of the largest UK towns without a railway station.

While plans for the new station were approved in 2013, the project was delayed by a variety of problems, including the discovery of protected newts.

"He was really happy when they started to develop plans for the new station," said Mr Clifton's husband, Michael Banton.

"He said: 'I'm going to be one of the first on that train.' But unfortunately, he became very ill."

He died in November 2015 and his ashes are kept in a casket at the couple's Ilkeston home.

Image copyright Michael Banton
Image caption David Hardy with his grandson James Clifton

The first service to arrive at the station was greeted with large crowds as it pulled in at 09:45 on Sunday.

And a few hours later, Mr Clifton and Mr Banton arrived with their very special travel companion, carried in a sports bag.

"I just said to Michael: 'Go on, we'll take him in'," said Mr Clifton, a 31-year-old jeweller. "I think he would have loved it.

"He'd always talk about catching the train from the old station and was so excited about the new one coming."

"We sat him in his own little chair," said Mr Banton, who works in a bakery.

"We didn't want anyone to know what we were doing though in case they thought we were mad.

"But it was special for us, to give him the ride on the train he wanted."

He posted a message on Facebook about the train ride, adding: "Just wish he could be here in person."

Image copyright Jane Clifton
Image caption James Clifton (right) and his husband Michael Banton went for dinner after taking Mr Hardy's ashes on the train to Nottingham

The pair took the casket with them on the train to Nottingham, and then to dinner, before returning home.

They then told Mr Clifton's mother Jane and grandmother Barbara about their trip.

"My nan was touched," said Mr Clifton. "And when I told my mum, she was crying."

It is estimated 160,000 people will use the new station within its first year - but David Hardy's journey will undoubtedly be one of the most unique.

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