AROUND 200 people gathered for the funeral of Andrew Barley to pay tribute to the popular taxi boss who died earlier this month after battling leukaemia.

The sun shone on the crowds of mourners as they filed into the Gwent Crematorium yesterday afternoon.

The first tribute began: “We should not be here.”

But the family had been forced to accept the reality that at just 27 years of age Mr Barley had died after developing leukaemia.

He first got ill in December 2012 and after being diagnosed with leukaemia started chemotherapy. In April of last year he celebrated being in remission and his 27th birthday.

Mr Barley went back into hospital in December 2013 for a bone marrow transplant. He remained in hospital but his body struggled to recover and on March 10 he died of organ failure.

Lined by at least 20 workers from Dragon Taxis, his coffin was carried into the crematorium to the sounds of You’ll Never Walk Alone. Earlier, the cortege had visited the Dragon Taxis base at Newport railway station, paused for 10 minutes, and drivers had beeped their horns as a parting salute.

Mourners filled the chapel and spilled out of the doors to pay their respects.

After the congregation sang The Old Rugged Cross, the minister, Reverend Peter Wood, read tributes on behalf of Mr Barley’s family. He summed up the life of a “special man”, from his school days in Lliswerry where he became head boy, to his time in the Boys’ Brigade and the taxi industry where he had been operational director of Dragon Taxis for the last four years.

The tribute went on to describe him as compassionate and committed, saying that no matter how you knew him, whether it was through work, family or friends, you felt “he was one of us”.

“He had a heart for the people of Newport.”

Reading a tribute from Mr Barley’s partner Gareth, the minister said: “He fought so hard to beat his illness.

“He touched so many people’s lives. I am who I am today because of Andrew. At least I have all the memories of the life we had together. “

In an emotional tribute from friend and Boys’ Brigade colleague Liz Thomas, who runs the 1st Newport Company, she said: “He helped me through one of the toughest times of my life. I will never be able to thank you enough.”

The curtains closed around the coffin as The Last Post was played on a bugle, an instrument Mr Barley had learnt to play in the Boys’ Brigade.

Mourners left silently as Bring Him Home played: “He is young. He’s afraid. Let him rest. Heaven blessed.”

Donations were asked to be made to the Lymphoma and Leukaemia Development Fund.