Last Years


Front Page of the South Wales Argus 13th June 1998

Aubrey was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in the spring of 1997. Over the following year, his health deteriorated gradually, and by the winter of 1998, he was unable to leave his bed for up to 22 hours every day. Despite this, he tried to carry on his life as normal. This included the weekly shop for an elderly lady in his old constituency, something that he had been doing for a number of years, as well as fighting a court case of behalf of timeshare residents in West Wales. However, as much as he tried, he was unable to do everything he wanted. His eldest son took over the weekly shop for his old constituent and other members of his family helped him deal with his correspondence, although much remained unanswered. He also struggled to hide his health problems from visitors, including his successor as leader of the council Sir Harry Jones, and his oldest political colleague and his predecessor as council leader, Stewart Watson, both regular visitors.
As a consequence, when he was awarded the Freedom of Newport in February 1998, the council knew that he might have struggled to make it through the ceremony, and had a bed installed in the council chamber in case he could not. Despite this, and with the aid of strong painkillers, he did manage to make it through to the end, including making his last ever speech at his last ever public appearance.

Staying at home for as long as possible as his cancer started to win the day, Aubrey was finally admitted to the Royal Gwent Hospital on 4th June 1998, dying there four days later on 8th June. The days after Aubrey’s death gave a clear indication, if anybody needed one, of the great affection he was held in by the residents of Newport. Many offered their services free, happy to give back to Aubrey something that he had given to them, and there was no shortage of people offering to carry his coffin. The town council offered his wife Mary a Civic funeral, which she refused in favour of a normal Catholic service. They did though take on the responsibility for many of the arrangements for the funeral. However, probably the most remarkable show of affection occurred the day after his death when his eldest daughter rang the undertaker to inform him that he had died. In an unusual reversal of circumstances, it was the undertaker who broke down on hearing this news, and it took two further attempts to ring him before he could compose himself.
Aubrey’s funeral took place four days after he died on 12th June, at St. Mary’s Church on Stow Hill. Buried the same day as one of Newport’s most famous rugby stars, William “Bunner” Travers, their funerals were reported on the front page of the South Wales Argus under the headline “A farewell to legends”. The opening paragraph described Aubrey as the citizen “who perhaps above all others, etched his name upon the town’s heart”.

Aubrey was buried in St. Woolos cemetery in Newport at the bottom of the road where he lived for most of his life. His wife Mary, who died in twelve years later in 2010 is buried with him.

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