Dogs and mourners line streets to say goodbye to Paul O’Grady

Lily Savage wig, dog-shaped wreath and music from Annie feature at funeral of entertainer, who died last month

Before the event, Paul O’Grady’s funeral cortege passed through the Kent hamlet of Aldington. Image credit: Yui Mok/PA

On Thursday, hundreds of people showed out to bid Paul O’Grady goodbye, including a Rolling Stone.

But if the deceased performer had been able to go to his own funeral, he might have bypassed Ronnie Wood and instead turned to the labradoodle sitting solemnly in a buggy as the procession passed. This dog was one of many that lined the streets of his hometown to honour the biggest dog-lover in show business.

O’Grady spent more than 20 years living in the Kent hamlet of Adlington, where the burial was held. Fans gathered in his hometown of Birkenhead to commemorate him in their own unique ways while singing along to Who Let the Dogs Out? outside in the springtime light.

They said, “Paul!” A lady walked by with her cockapoo while a suspicious pug assessed the situation from the basket of a mobility scooter.

In Aldington, Kent, a dog outside the Walnut Tree Pub. Image credit: Yui Mok/PA

Back in Kent, O’Grady’s husband, Andre Portasio, rode in a horse-drawn carriage to St Rumwold’s church with one of their dogs, Conchita, perched on his lap. A wreath in the form of a dog stood watch over the coffin in memory of Buster, an O’Grady TV programme regular in the 2000s who passed away from cancer in 2009.

O’Grady’s daughter Sharyn Mousley entered the chapel with a young guy clutching Lily Savage’s wig, his drag persona. Lilies were put around a picture of a smiling O’Grady standing in front of the Grade I-listed church and were placed on the coffin.

Friends and family were welcomed by a trio of pups from the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Celebrity chefs Andi Oliver and Sally Lindsay from Coronation Street stopped to touch the puppies on their way in.

Ernie, who had seen O’Grady numerous times while shooting For the Love of Dogs, his ITV programme about the animal shelter, was one of the pups.

Andre Portasio, O’Grady’s husband, was riding in the chariot carried by horses. Image courtesy of Carl Court/Getty Images

Paul was approximately five weeks old when Ernie first saw him two years ago. He’s been around him a lot. The head of canine behaviour at Battersea, Ali Taylor, stated, “We thought that he should come along today.

The local Women’s Institute (WI) in Adlington had organised a tea and cake event, and all of the earnings went to Battersea. “Paul was a big part of our community, so we wanted to commemorate him. The chair, Ginny Taylor, said that he was a nice guy.

A bronze statue of O’Grady’s pet dog, Buster, was set on top of a leopard-print blanket for the memorial ceremony, which also included a number of individual tributes to the presenter.

At the private funeral, Julian Clary, a comedian, gave the eulogy. Rev. Canon. Roger Martin afterwards praised him for his “very entertaining” remarks.

The Salvation Army Band performed tunes, including Tomorrow from the touring version of the musical Annie in which O’Grady was starring at the time of his passing.

Dogs were brought by volunteers from the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home as part of the memorial services for O’Grady. Image credit: Yui Mok/PA

Jo Moir, a Salvation Army captain who supervised O’Grady during his volunteer training for a 2016 television programme, paid homage outside the chapel.

“Paul had a long relationship with the Salvation Army back when he was a young boy in Birkenhead,” she continued. We forget that he was a social worker before becoming a performer when he worked with us as a social worker.

He later discovered us helping the young guys, many of whom were dying alone, during the 1980s HIV and Aids crisis. He has supported the Salvation Army ever since and never forgot it about them.

O’Grady’s casket was positioned adjacent to the grave of Brendan Murphy, his ex-partner who passed away in 2005. After that, mourners travelled to a wake in the Kent safari park, Port Lympne.

O’Grady passed away following a sudden heart arrhythmia last month. He was 67.

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