Dancing on: Club’s poignant tribute to it’s tragic stalwarts

(2/3 EDI) South African bus crash victims Irene and Clifford Culling from Costessey.

(2/3 EDI) South African bus crash victims Irene and Clifford Culling from Costessey. - Credit: Archant

It will be an anniversary dance to remember the good times and a tribute to the much loved couple who ran the club before they were killed in a horrifying coach crash while on holiday in South Africa exactly 16 years ago.

Members of Costessey Dance Club pictured several years ago.

Members of Costessey Dance Club pictured several years ago. - Credit: Archant

Clifford and Irene Culling were the leading lights at the Costessey Dance Club which they devoted so much of their time to. Clifford was the teacher while Irene played the records.

The couple, who had been married for 50 years, spent an unexpected windfall in September 1999 on a dream holiday taking a safari in South Africa.

But they were killed when the tour bus they were on careered down a hillside at a notorious place for accidents called Long Tom Pass. The bus turned over, causing the deaths of 27 people including Clifford and Irene, both in their mid-70s. Ten passengers survived.

They left a son Alan, daughter Christine and six grandchildren. Alan said at the time that the family were devastated by what had happened.

'They were a lovely couple and will be sadly missed. Dancing was everything to them and the dance club meant so much to them,' he said.

Clifford, who had worked for the Norwich Glass Company for five decades, loved taking photographs and both were looking forward so much to their holiday of a lifetime watching the wildlife in South Africa. They both loved elephants.

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Their deaths cast a shadow over the club and its future but members know they would want them to carry on – and that's just what they did.

Brian Dugdale said in 1999: 'Irene and Clifford were the dance club. They were two lovely people and I can't praise them enough. The club they ran was part of the community.'

On Saturday September 19 members and friends will be gathering to celebrate 45 years since Costessey Dance Club was first formed.

I spoke to Clifford and Irene, such a popular couple, when the club celebrated its 25th anniversary and remember just how much it meant to them. It was a group which brought the community together in such a happy way.

Following their death it had been feared the club may fold but members were determined to carry on and that's just what they have done.

'How pleased they would be to see we are now celebrating our 45th anniversary,' said the man who now runs with club with helpers, David Dewing.

This friendly club which highlights what community spirit and friendship is all about was started by Gordon Rudd and Charles Barnes to raise money to have a good time and, it is thought, to help the parish council build Breckland Hall.

The dances started in the parish rooms and later moved to the hall in 1970 where it continues to meet on a Tuesday night and on the third Saturday of the month.

'In the old days there were regular supper dances and fish and chip evenings, the dances were prepared and served by the committee members,' said David.

They also had local bands and groups playing for their dances and two David remembers were The Melody Three and The Sing a Longs.

In the early days there were also teachers which taught ballroom dance steps and then sequence dances – which are still being danced, and enjoyed, today.

Following the death of Clifford and Irene, Hazel Dewing took charge of running the club until she passed away when husband David took over helped by his partner Jill Youngs, John Bexfield and many others who are essential to the smooth running.

'Our celebrations start on Saturday September 19 at 7.30pm in Breckland Hall and we would like to see as many people as possible join us and of course we are always looking for new members,' said David. More details from him on 01603 462172.