Hundreds of Paul O’Grady fans, celebrities and animals gathered to mourn the star today (April 20) on the day of his private funeral. Groups of people and their dogs lined the streets in the village of Aldington in Kent where O’Grady lived for more than 20 years, to pay their respects to the television presenter and comedian.
O’Grady’s husband Andre Portasio is said to have been emotional as he rode on a carriage drawn by two black horses with one of the couple’s dogs on his lap behind the hearse. Meanwhile O’Grady’s daughter Sharyn Mousley entered the church with a young man holding the wig Lily Savage - her father’s drag alter ego - used to wear.
A number of dogs from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home were also said to form a guard of honour at the funeral as O’Grady was a regular visitor and ambassador for the charity. The Salvation Army Band played songs including Tomorrow from the musical Annie which O’Grady was starring in at the time of his death.
Following his death, Paul O’Grady was given a touching tribute by Battersea chief executive, Peter Laurie. Mr Laurie said: “To many, Paul O’Grady was the immensely popular TV and radio presenter and comedian who lit up their screens with his razor-sharp humour and perpetual generosity and warmth.
“Paul had an extremely hands-on approach as a Battersea Ambassador and has been fundamental in helping our charity to communicate important campaign messages. He was a champion for the underdog and would do anything to ensure all animals live a healthy and happy life. He will be dearly missed.”
Some dogs could be seen wearing jackets identifying them as being from the home, with the phrase "rescue is best", as mourners gathered on Thursday.
Celebrities including Actress Linda Henry, who plays Shirley Carter in EastEnders, LGBTQ rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and TV presenter Gaby Roslin were among those in attendance at the funeral. Comedian Julian Clary, actress Dame Sheila Hancock, the late Dame Barbara Windsor’s widower Scott Mitchell and EastEnders actor Scott Maslen were also seen at the church.
In addition to the private funeral, there will also be a public memorial held at Port Lympne Safari Park just a few miles from his home in Aldington. Paul O’Grady died on March 28 aged 67. His official cause of death was confirmed as a sudden cardiac arrhythmia.