The clock of life is wound but once and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop.
A sobering sentiment began the touching final tribute to David Kelbie as family, friends and well-wishers gathered in the Cloister Chapel at Warriston Crematorium yesterday to mark the life of a man who, through life’s ups and downs, still brought laughter to many.
Although 20 years of his life was spent chaotically sleeping rough on the city streets, Mr Kelbie, known to thousands in the Capital simply as Monkey, was laid to rest peacefully after passing away at his home in Thorntree Street on September 8.
Mourners heard how David was born in Arbroath in 1948, and after a tough childhood spent in children’s homes in the North East, Davie spent four years travelling the world in the Merchant Navy.
But yearning for a more settled life led him back to Scotland where his future seemed set on a bright path when he met the love of his life, Eileen.
Sadly the clock of life had other plans and the seemingly rosy path ahead was not to be.
Mr Kelbie tragically witnessed Eileen being struck down and killed by a car when she was at the side of the road.
It began a spiral for David, who after moving to Edinburgh, became a heavy street drinker known to many, and the authorities, as a nuisance as he struggled to come to terms with the pain in his life.
But through it all his salvation, and his passion, was music and he was never without his mouth organ. One summer, during the Edinburgh Fringe, he teamed up with a young guitarist and the chance pairing turned out to be a great hit with the passing crowds.
As well as sadness at a life ended, there was also laughter as civil celebrant Gordon Smith, who led the ceremony, reminisced about some of Mr Kelbie’s more colourful moments, some of which included his relationship with the local constabulary, of which Mr Smith was a former employee.
The ceremony, which started with Elvis Presley’s Always On My Mind, paused to reflect on Mr Kelbie’s life as Frank Sinatra’s My Way played.
A brother to Cathy, the siblings enjoyed a special bond throughout their lives and she managed to spend precious days with Mr Kelbie shortly before he passed away. Her son John, David’s nephew, read a touching poem, Let Me Go, by Christina Rossetti at the service.
Despite his often challenging attitude, homeless charity Rowan Alba found a place for him, both in Edinburgh and the community in 2004 and he became one of the first residents of its new Thorntree Street homes.
Here he enjoyed security, a home to be proud of for the final 14 years of his life and a peaceful place to end his seven decades.
The ceremony finished with Davy’s On The Road Again by Manfred Mann’s Earth band.
Founder and CEO of Rowan Alba Limited, Helen Carlin, said: “It was a privilege to have known Mr Kelbie, and to be able to offer him the dignity, accommodation and compassion we all need to be a part of our society. Many saw him as an aggressor, but he, like many others who just ‘don’t fit in’ was in fact the victim of a system that fails to see the unique individuals that we are.”