Unite member Paul Cooney speaks at the rally

Morris dancers, a party of bikers and a former bakery student dressed up as a surgeon complete with hospital trolley.

They were all there to give the hospital protest march an endearingly eccentric feel.

But despite the good-natured atmosphere among the thousands of people who gave up their precious Saturday lunchtime to take part in the march around the town centre, there was no mistaking the very real anger and passion lying just beneath the surface.

There were stirring speeches from among others Conservative Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney and Dewsbury Labour MP Paula Sherriff in a rare show of cross-party support as well as Paul Cooney, a member of UNITE, Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union.

The march itself was a good-tempered affair with the constant chant: “Save our A&E” reverberating around the town centre.

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RECAP: All the action from today's huge #handoffhri march in St.George's Square

One of those involved was retired postman, Neil Brook, of Crosland Moor . He has more reason than most to be concerned about the proposals to close the A&E department.

Neil, 67, said: “Nine years ago I began suffering from a migraine which I didn’t normally suffer from.

“My wife at the time told me to see a doctor which I did.

“He sent me to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary where all the initial tests were done and within a couple of hours I had been transferred to Leeds General Infirmary.

“If I had not gone to Huddersfield and had had to travel all the way to Calderdale Royal Hospital instead I probably wouldn’t be standing here talking to you now.

“There’s a so-called Golden Hour in these cases and you don’t have a second or a minute to lose.”

Watch Roger Kinder's video of the amazing day below

Video thumbnail, Hands Off HRI demo by Roger Kinder
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Two women from Leeds and York, Clare Maxwell and Carol Diggle, felt so strongly about the issue that they travelled over especially for the march and painted their faces with pro- NHS slogans along with their friend from Huddersfield, Nancy Woods.

Asked why she was taking part, Clare said; “It’s all about saving the NHS.

“This is about wider issues than just one hospital losing its A&E department. We have to stand up and protest about cuts to the NHS.”

Nancy added: “I’m here for the same reasons. We have to support the NHS and today’s march is part of that struggle.”

Chris Marsden, chairman of Huddersfield Civic Society , who dressed up as a surgeon using his bakery whites from student days at Huddersfield Technical College, said: “Today’s turnout has been very good especially when you consider how cold it is.

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“But we need to build on this. Today is just the beginning.

“We need to keep the momentum up, hour after hour, day after day, week after week.”

Julie Hughes, 51, from Lowerhouses who attended the march in her wheelchair, said: “I think today’s turnout has been brilliant and it’s critical that we don’t let up and keep the pressure on the authorities who are proposing these plans. They are going to cost a lot more lives than they are saying.

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“There’s no way on earth that we should be accepting these proposals.”

And Peter Robinson, 67, a retired local government officer, said: “It’s been great to see so many people come out in support of the NHS. Hopefully it will have some impact. We are isolated living in Slaithwaite and it is a real worry what is being proposed.”

READ MORE: Politicians call for unity as they pledge to save Huddersfield's A&E

Phillip Kohl, a 56-year-old part-time cleaner, also from Slaithwaite , said: “I think they should keep Huddersfield’s A&E department open. I think the proposals will lead to lives being lost. I am diabetic and have collapsed in the past, it’s a worry.”

Police inspector John Dunkerley said: “I reckon there must have been between 5,000 and 7,000 people at this march.

“It took a good 20 minutes to empty St George’s Square .

“There have been no arrests and we are very happy about how it has gone today.”

Video thumbnail, Handsoffhri jason mccartney
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