A HIGHLY unusual tribute was paid in honour of a Winchester bus driver who died at the start of this year.

The funeral proceedings for Brian Bell was marked by a Stagecoach bus in memory of the 15 years he worked for the company.

Winchester-born Brian, who lived in St Cross. died from cancer, aged 56, on January 12.

His funeral procession on Tuesday began at the Winchester Bus Station, seeing a bus with his name on the front being driven past spectators, friends and family members as it turned onto The Broadway.

Brian’s cousin, Shirley Hoare, said: “He was a good guy. A really good guy. There’s no other way to put it.

“We grew up together and had so much fun back then, when we were in Highcliffe.

“One of the best memories I’ve had with Brian is when he was the page boy at my wedding.”

She continued: “He’s touched the hearts of everyone he’s met in the past. Everyone knew him, and it’s astounded me how many people say they recognise his name or his face.”

Stagecoach also announced that a Kings City-branded bus will be permanently named in memory of Brian.

It will be used on the network for services to Badger Farm, Harestock, Winnall, Stanmore and Springvale - a route that the driver often worked on.

Steve Thorpe, Stagecoach South marketing officer, said: “Brian was a popular member of our Winchester driving staff and we felt the tribute was a great way for his colleagues and customers to remember him.”

Family and friends attending the funeral swapped out traditional black attire for blue jerseys - a direct request from Brian.

Shirley said: “He knew he was dying, and the only thing he made clear he wanted for his funeral was for us all to wear Chelsea Football Club shirts.

“As a family we all want to express our thanks to the Countess Mountbatten Hospice in West End. They looked after him brilliantly.”

The procession ended at the All Saints Church in Petersfield Road, Highcliffe, where the official service was held.