Paul O’Grady laid to rest after ‘moving’ service with close friends and family

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and comedian Alan Carr were among those in attendance.
Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and comedian Alan Carr were among those in attendance.

Comedian and TV stalwart Paul O’Grady has been laid to rest following a “moving” yet “jolly” service which included a eulogy from actor Julian Clary and a reading from Lord Michael Cashman.

The private funeral was held at St Rumwold’s Church in the village of Bonnington in Kent on Thursday afternoon, conducted by the Reverend Canon Roger Martin before mourners went to a wake at Port Lympne Safari Park.

The service featured a series of personal tributes to the entertainer, including a bronze statue of his beloved late dog Buster that had been placed on a leopard-print throw.

A photograph of a smiling O’Grady was placed at the front of the Grade I listed parish church surrounded by arrangements of lilies in a nod to his drag alter ego, Lily Savage.

Paul O’Grady funeral
Ronnie and Sally Wood arrive for the funeral of Paul O’Grady (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Mr Martin welcomed family and friends including comedian Clary, actress Dame Sheila Hancock, and the late Dame Barbara Windsor’s widower Scott Mitchell.

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and comedian Alan Carr were also among those attending.

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.

Paul O’Grady funeral
The funeral cortege of Paul O’Grady travels through the village of Aldington, Kent (Yui Mok/PA)

Following the service, Mr Martin told the PA news agency: “The mood was very jolly. There were some recordings of Paul, favourite clips, a good selection of varied music, it was lighthearted. It was a moving occasion.”

He also added: “It was a very fitting send off.”

The vicar described Clary’s eulogy as “very entertaining”, adding: “He spoke quite a lot about their stage life together.”

Mr Martin also spoke about the church organ, which has to be pumped by hand, malfunctioning during a hymn, and said they had turned it into a “moment of fun”.

Mr Martin, who had known O’Grady since 2011, praised him as “community-minded” and a “very humble chap”.

Mourners entered the church to You Gotta Get A Gimmick from the 1993 Bette Midler musical Gypsy.

Paul O’Grady funeral
The coffin of Paul O’Grady is taken from St Rumwold’s Church following the service (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The service commenced with a reading from actor-turned-Labour peer and LGBT rights activist Lord Cashman and O’Grady’s former PA and agent Joan Marshrons, who read a Woodland Burial.

It also included reflections from Chad Rogers, who produced TV shows Blankety Blank and Paul O’Grady: For The Love Of Dogs, about his friendship with O’Grady.

Musical choices included the theme from British television drama series Upstairs Downstairs, Looking For Trouble by Elvis Presley and Meditation from the opera Thais by French composer Jules Massenet.

The order of service featured a poem from Rumi, a photograph of O’Grady dressed in drag with the quote “See you down there”, and a picture of the comedian cuddling a baby orangutan.

Paul O’Grady funeral
Andre Portasio carries one of their dogs, Conchitta (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Donations were requested to four causes “close to his heart”, including Save The Children UK, the Orangutan Appeal UK, Battersea Dogs And Cats Home, and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

Ahead of the service, thousands lined the streets to see the procession of nine limousines followed by a cortege including motorbikes that left O’Grady’s home in the nearby village of Aldington.

Children from Aldington Primary School paid their respects with picture collages and drawings of dogs.

O’Grady’s widower Andre Portasio was emotional as he rode atop the hearse drawn by two black horses and decorated with a wreath of their late dog Buster, with one of their other dogs, Conchita, on his lap.

O’Grady, who rose to fame as Lily Savage before going on to host a string of television programmes, 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.