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Stars and locals turn out for Cilla Black's funeral

Cilla Black's coffin leaves St Mary's Church in Woolton, Liverpool. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA  
Press Association reporters

SHOWBIZ stars and thousands of fans said "Ta-ra girl" to Cilla Black as she returned to her Liverpool home one last time.

Her funeral cortege was clapped and cheered as fans stood five deep, some throwing roses on to the hearse as it arrived for the Requiem Mass at St Mary's Catholic Church, where her family were joined by a galaxy of showbiz stars.

Sir Tom Jones, Carol Vorderman and Andrew Lloyd Webber were some of the VIP guests among the 340 mourners inside the church, while comedian and close friend Paul O'Grady gave a humorous and touching eulogy.

"I am just so grateful that she allowed me into her whirlwind of a life and we spend nearly two decades together hellraising - if you pardon the expression," he said to laughter.

"I loved her dearly. Cilla, I would just like to say, 'thanks for all the fun, thanks for all the laughs - ta-ra girl, I will see you on life's highway'."

Black's own voice filled the church as 1964 smash hit Anyone Who Had A Heart pierced the silence, before the service closed with a poignant recording from the band she counted as friends, The Beatles' melancholic The Long And Winding Road.

Earlier, thousands of fans stood in silence as her coffin passed by, some wiping tears away as the cortege made the two-mile journey to the church in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton.

It was here, as a 25-year-old star of the swinging sixties, that she had a Catholic wedding blessing ceremony after marrying her much-loved Bobby Willis earlier in 1969.

With the love of her life at her side, she rose from humble beginnings in Liverpool's dockland Scotland Road, working as a cloakroom girl at the Cavern Club on her way to stardom as the Fab Four shook the world.

Sir Cliff Richard described Black as "the greatest TV presenter of all time" and praised "all the fabulous things about her".

"I'm not sure what to say because I can't think of Cilla in a past tense.

"Being driven here was a fantastic experience, you forget how much people loved her," he added, before singing Faithful One in tribute to his friend.

Her son Robert Willis said Black was a "wonderful lady who had touched all our lives and brought joy and laughter" to those she knew.

"She treated everyone just as she saw them, no matter their background."

Mr Willis said his parents were "two working class kids who grew up together and made the impossible possible".

Close friend Jimmy Tarbuck described Black as "Liverpool's Cinderella".

"She was the first lady of showbusiness. To be born a lady is an accident, to die one is an achievement," he added.

Mourners erupted into spontaneous applause as the pall-bearers carried her out of the church to a waiting hearse.

Comedian Les Dennis said: "I'm sure she would've loved it, she got a round of applause and standing ovation as she left the church."

Lord Lloyd-Webber said: "I thought it was beautifully conducted and a wonderful choice of music. Those who knew her well spoke fantastically about her, the sense of joy, fun and love that was always around Cilla."

Black (72) who died after a fall at her Spanish villa on August 1, was buried alongside her mother Priscilla and father John at a private ceremony at Allerton Cemetery in Liverpool.

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