Mourners remember Paul O’Grady ahead of his funeral today
1 month ago
The day will feature a guard of honour with dogs from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and an appearance from the Salvation Army Band.
Mourners have begun arriving in the village where beloved comedian and TV star Paul O’Grady lived ahead of his funeral.
Crowds gathered in Aldington, Kent, O’Grady’s adopted home of more than 20 years, from 10am on this morning, April 20.
A procession of limousines and a coffin in a horse and carriage will move from his home to St Rumwold’s Church in nearby Bonnington in the early afternoon.
A bake sale was being organised outside the Walnut Tree pub with proceeds going to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, with which he worked closely throughout his life.
Anne Manktelow, 61, left her home in Canterbury at 9am to be in the village for the funeral. She held back tears as she explained how she “had to be here” when she heard the news of the star’s death.
“When I heard about Paul I just felt I had to be here, just because he is one of the genuine people. A lot of celebrities come across one way but they are so different in real life. It was just the real deal with Paul.
“I just want to stand with the people of the village.”
She added she hopes the bake sale and a guard of honour with dogs from Battersea raises the profile of the charity in a similar way to how Dame Deborah James raised awareness of bowel cancer.
Walnut Tree landlady Karen Barrett said:
“I don’t quite know how I feel about today to tell you the truth … until he comes past and I am going to cry.
“It will be real. He was just lovely and if you didn’t get to meet him, then you missed out on life. You really did, he was just great.”
Ms Barrett, who became emotional when talking about O’Grady, said she was focusing on making sure “the day goes well and he would be proud of us”.
Women’s Institute member Linda Harman, who was helping organise the bake sale, said:
“The response from the village has been phenomenal. We have had a large amount of donations and will probably receive more throughout the day. We have had other celebrities living in the village. Paul was the one who gave back.
“I knew him slightly. Paul was a very approachable human being. He was very generous with time and money with regards to the village. He was very supportive of events that we had here. The last time he was here for a village event in September when he was a judge in the dog show.
“He was always ready to share a joke. The last exchange I had with him was when he was appointed as Deputy Lieutenant of Kent.
“I sent him a text putting exclamation marks and he just replied saying: ‘yes I can’t believe it.’ That was probably at the end of last year. I hope the funeral goes smoothly – people will turn out, I know they will. I hope it gives some comfort to (O’Grady’s husband) Andre (Portasio) and the rest of his family to know that we as a village held him in such high esteem.”
Paul, who rose to fame as his drag alter ego 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.