Coffin arrives at funeral of Paul O'Grady as hundreds line streets
The coffin has arrived at the funeral of comedian and TV stalwart Paul O’Grady after hundreds lined the streets to see the procession.
A horse-drawn carriage slowly made its way through his home village of Aldington to St Rumwold’s Church in nearby Bonnington, Kent.
O’Grady’s husband Andre Portasio was emotional as he rode in the carriage drawn by two black horses and decorated with a wreath of their dog Buster, with one of their other dogs, Conchita, on his lap.
Nine limousines followed with a cortege including motorbikes behind them.
At the church, pallbearers carried the wooden coffin adorned with a wreath of lilies, while O’Grady’s daughter Sharyn Mousley entered with a young man holding the wig of Lily Savage – her father’s drag alter ego.
Reverend Canon Roger Martin welcomed family and friends including comedian Julian Clary, actress Dame Sheila Hancock, and the late Dame Barbara Windsor’s widower Scott Mitchell.
The Salvation Army Band played songs such as Tomorrow from the musical Annie – in which O’Grady was starring in a touring production at the time of his death.
Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and comedian Alan Carr were also among the celebrity attendees.
Comedian and TV presenter Jo Brand arrived with soap star Cheryl Fergison, followed by actress Linda Henry, who plays Shirley Carter in EastEnders.
LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wore a purple shirt and black tie, while TV presenter Gaby Roslin sported an all-black ensemble as she entered the Grade I-listed church.
A trio of puppies from the Battersea Dogs And Cats Home greeted friends and family arriving for the funeral.
Celebrity chef Andi Oliver and Coronation Street star Sally Lindsay were among the mourners petting the animals.
Personal notes from family, including O’Grady’s daughter, were left outside the church attached to wreaths of lilies, in an apparent nod to the star’s alter ego.
Salvation Army Captain Jo Moir, who mentored O’Grady when he trained as a volunteer for the charity in a 2016 TV documentary, paid tribute outside the church.
She told PA: “I’m lucky enough that Paul became my friend after we finished filming together seven years ago and he became part of my family, so we talked about this kind of stuff.
“Hopefully the Salvation Army band can really honour him today with the music.”
She said the band would be playing music that was “precious to him”.
A bake sale was organised outside the Walnut Tree pub in Aldington, with proceeds going to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, with which O’Grady worked closely throughout his life.
Aldington Women’s Institute (WI) chairwoman Ginny Taylor, who organised the sale, told the PA news agency: “We wanted to honour Paul because he was very much part of our village. He was lovely, an absolutely lovely man.
“He was always very engaged. He must have got fed up to his back teeth with everyone but he was always good. It is a real shock just even talking about it.”
WI member Linda Harman said the response from the village has been “phenomenal”.
O’Grady, who rose to fame as Lily Savage before going on to host a string of television programmes as himself, died “unexpectedly but peacefully” at his home on March 28 at the age of 67.
Born in Birkenhead on the Wirral, Merseyside, he later adopted Kent as his home for more than 20 years.