A LARGER-THAN-LIFE Halliwell character was given an unusual send-off — when his coffin was driven through the streets in a JCB.

Tommy Flynn, aged 76, lost a two-year battle with cancer on November 2, and the retired JCB driver had vowed to drive one of the vehicles again before he died.

His ill health denied him this chance but friends of his stepped in to ensure he would finally make that journey.

Passers-by were stunned as his funeral cortege proceeded along Halliwell Road on its way to Overdale Crematorium yesterday afternoon.

Rather than in the back of a hearse, Mr Flynn’s coffin was transported in the digger of the JCB.

The idea was organised by Dawn McGuinness, a friend who cared for Mr Flynn in the final years of his life.

“He was a JCB driver all his life and somehow this seemed fitting, particularly as he always vowed to drive one again,” she said.

“The family knew nothing of this, but they all thought it was the right way to do it.

“Half the people in the street were looking at us agog and half were smiling because they knew Tommy.”

Mr Flynn’s four sons, Thomas, Michael, Aidan and Paul, travelled from County Tipperary for the funeral. “Tommy became a real character in Halliwell,” said Dawn.

“He was a stubborn so-and-so at times and always had to have the last word on something.

“He was always on his JCB and would often drive it to the pub when he came for a pint. But he had a heart of gold. If someone was struggling, he would always try to help.

“He was also hilarious, larger-than-life — he would have us all in stitches.”

Ms McGuinness was a barmaid at the Crofter's Arms which, along with the Lord Raglan, was one of his favourite local pubs.

A JCB driver all his working life, Mr Flynn moved to Bolton 25 years ago and to live near his brother, John.

Ms McGuinness thanked Birtwistle’s Funeral Service for its help in organising the unusual cortege.

She added: “I mentioned the JCB to them and the lady immediately said she knew a driver and said she’d make it all happen.”