Prestonpans is mourning the loss of a community stalwart who brought life to the town's gala celebrations.

John Cunningham was born on November 10, 1940, a true 'Panner' who lived his whole life within the town and was known by many as 'Poker'.

He married the love of his life Lillian on September 5, 1964, being blessed with four children: Constance, John, Conway and Kevin.

He was a great family man, as well as being a much-loved grandad and great grandad to his grandchildren.

East Lothian Courier: John Cunningham

In his early years, John worked at Lowe’s market garden in the town before working at Cockenzie Power Station and Blindwells opencast mine amongst other jobs.

In John’s later years, he was a door man at Prestonpans Royal British Legion and the Store Club in Musselburgh.

He loved going on holiday with Lillian and was an avid fan of steam trains, collecting many model trains which are on display within his home.

He was also a keen gardener: if you asked him what a plant or flower was called he could tell you its scientific name not just its basic name.

John was a great supporter of the local Labour Party and, at election times, not only would he proudly display Labour posters in his windows, he would stand at the polling station greeting everyone as they went in or out.

John was also heavily involved in the local children’s gala committee, taking the helm and becoming the chairman, supported by his good friend James Yule as well as many others.

When James chose to step down and retire, John stepped back a bit as well, becoming the honourable chairperson, a title he held until his passing.

Gala day, gala week or gala events were the highlight of his year, whether that was taking the tickets at the disco, leading the royal court children on their sponsored walk, or assisting the vet at the pet show.

East Lothian Courier: Prestonpans Gala 2022

He also escorted the judges to judge the decorated houses and, on gala day, where he would be found in the park in his tartan trousers, checking in on everyone and having a good old chat, as well as turning his hand to whatever was needed.

John always insisted on being the one to collect the gala queen, her escort, lady-in-waiting and her escort in a limousine, taking them to the community centre for the crowning ceremony. There he would sit among the dignitaries on the stage and keep an eye on proceedings.

December time was when 'Poker' became Santa, whether that was at the children's party at the Legion or the Store Club.

He would also help the gala queen with the switching on of the Christmas lights and, more recently, riding aboard his sleigh as it toured round Prestonpans bringing lots of warmth and delight to the local children.

He was a very sociable type of person, always greeting you with a firm handshake, sometimes even a wee dance, lighting up a room when he entered it.

John 'Poker' Cunningham will be deeply missed not only by his family but by the wider community.

The gala day will not be the same without him but his memories will live on.

The Store Club will not be the same for its members, who all knew him and never knew what to expect when they walked through that front door as he always liked to have good banter and wind people up.

The Legion, his favourite haunt on a Sunday afternoon, will be quiet now he has passed: John kept everyone going and was a lovable character.

'Poker' was a one-of-a-kind person, who brought great memories and friendship to loads of people.

May his legacy live on and may he now rest in peace.

John's funeral will be held at Seafield Crematorium on Saturday, October 22 at noon. All are invited to attend.

A bus for the service will be leaving Prestonpans Legion at 11.15am.