From Battersea to Birkenhead, fans of Paul O’Grady have begun lining the streets as they prepare to bid a tearful goodbye to the entertainer, whose funeral is taking place near his home in Kent today.
The popular comedian and presenter, whose For the Love of Dogs TV programme was watched by millions, will make his final journey flanked by a ‘dogs guard of honour’ at his home village of Aldington, near Ashford.
The tribute will be formed from dogs from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, where the 11 series of his award-winning ITV show were set.
More than £270,000 has been raised for the charity since his death from a cardiac arrhythmia on March 28, aged 67.
O’Grady, who first found fame as acerbic drag Queen Lily Savage, became an ambassador for the animal charity in 2012 and rehomed five dogs while filming the show Paul O’Grady: For The Love Of Dogs.
Thousands of locals and fans from all over the country are expected to line the streets of Adlington village as the cortege passes, while the Salvation Army band will play along with the procession and at the service.
Paul O’Grady fans head out with their pooches ahead of the late TV icon’s funeral on Thursday
Paul O’Grady died from cardiac arrhythmia aged 67 last month, shocking fans across Britain and around the world
One of the Battersea Dogs Home workers attending O’Grady’s funeral spoke of his ‘kindness and genuine love of animals’ as she brought along her own pet to stand in the canine ‘Guard of Honour’ for the comedian.
Lisa Porter, 36, who works at the home’s Old Windsor branch, said she had met O’Grady a few years ago and appeared on his dog programme with him when he was helping to rehome two dachshunds.
‘He was so genuine, and although you’re nervous about meeting a celebrity, he was one of those people who immediately puts you at ease,’ Lisa recalled to MailOnline.
‘He was so easy-going and good with dogs and didn’t mind them jumping up and slobbering all over him! Everyone at Battersea, Old Windsor and our Brands Hatch branch will miss him so much.’
Lisa brought along Elsie, her two-year-old yellow Labrador as part of the guard of honour. Elsie, who Lisa adopted as a rescue dog from Battersea as a puppy, was wearing a blue coat, carrying Battersea’s emblem.
Also forming the guard of honour was Amy Hollyhead, 32, from the Brands Hatch branch, with her own dog Digby, a two-year-old Shih tzu.
‘Paul was a real pro,’ said Amy, ‘But you could tell he wasn’t just playing a part – he was a dog-lover through and through.’
Despite the sadness of the occasion, the village of Aldington took on something of a festive air as the funeral approached, with the pub the Walnut Tree, filling up with fans and their dogs as the hour of the funeral procession approached.
Jaqueline Lawrie, 48, from Barnet in north London, travelled down to pay her respects and her cocker-poo Millais, 10, was sitting in a pushchair with a placard around his neck showing O’Grady with a dog, saying simply ‘thank you’
Lisa Porter, 36, brought along Elsie, her two-year-old yellow Labrador (pictured together left) as part of the guard of honour. Elsie, who Lisa adopted as a rescue dog from Battersea as a puppy, was wearing a blue coat, carrying Battersea’s emblem
Well wishers wait outside the Walnut Tree Pub in Aldington, Kent, for the funeral cortege of Paul O’Grady
A well wisher holding flowers arrives to the Walnut Tree Pub in Adlington with her dog in tow
Fans of O’Grady line the streets of Adlington as they await the passing of his funeral cortege
One of dozens of dogs seen arriving early with their owners to the Walnut Tree Pub in Adlington, on the day of Paul O’Grady’s funeral
Locals in Adlington, Kent, carry flowers as they prepare to watch the funeral procession of Paul O’Grady
A Paul O’Grady fan sits on a stone wall with her dog in her lap as she awaits the funeral cortege of the late TV icon in Adlington, Kent
Fleur Boyd (left) with her mother Astrid Allen from Margate with their dogs outside the Walnut Tree Pub in Kent as they wait for Paul O’Grady’s funeral cortege to travel through the village of Aldington
Dogs at the Walnut Tree Pub in Aldington, Kent, as they wait for Paul O’Grady’s funeral cortege
A bake sale was being organised by the WI outside the pub with proceeds going to Battersea.
A procession of limousines and the coffin in a horse and carriage will pass by the pub as it moves from Paul’s home to St Rumwold’s Church in nearby Bonnington in the early afternoon.
Jaqueline Lawrie, 48, from Barnet in north London, travelled down to pay her respects and her cocker-poo Millais, 10, was sitting in a pushchair with a placard around his neck showing O’Grady with a dog, saying simply ‘thank you’.
‘We’ll miss him and his kindness, not just for his work with animals, but also the causes of LGBTQ and AIDS,’ said Jacqueline.
Meanwhile, pupils and teachers from Aldington Primary School laid out picture collages of their drawings of dogs along the route of his funeral.
Lifelong fan Lynn Heathfield was among the many to arrive early, telling ITV that she wanted to pay her respects because ‘Paul was a lovely man.’
She added: ‘He’s done lots for Battersea, lots for the community and he loved Kent… myself and my husband got three rescue dogs, I lost my husband last year and I know that he would have been here today to pay his respects.’
Describing Paul as ‘so down to earth’, two local sisters – Karen and Paula – told ITV that he ‘certainly wasn’t a diva’, adding that ‘wherever he went he always had that cheeky smile.’
Paula added: ‘He was one of us… he is irreplaceable, there will never be another Paul O’Grady – lovely man.’
Paul’s husband Andre Portasio has kept back details of the private service and where any wake is to be held afterwards. Many of Paul’s celebrity friends are expected to attend.
A fan waits outside the Walnut Tree Pub in Aldington, Kent, with her dog in a pram holding a ‘thank you’ sign, ahead of the cortege for Paul O’Grady travelling past on the way to his funeral at St Rumwold’s Church
Pupils from Aldington Primary School pay their respects to Paul O’Grady with picture collages of their drawings of dogs
Fans wait outside the Walnut Tree Pub in Aldington, Kent, for the funeral cortege of Paul O’Grady to pass by on its way for his funeral service at St Rumwold’s Church
A sign saying ‘Thank you Mr O’Grady’ has been placed outside Adlington Primary School
But he posted in local Facebook groups about the funeral procession through their village after being touched by the ‘outpouring of support’ from locals.
Andre wrote: ‘I’m incredibly grateful for the support and love I have received from our community, and we want to thank each and every one of you for your kindness and generosity.’
Paul was also praised today for his tireless work on behalf of animals by the RSPCA, of which he was a patron.
David Bowles, head of public affairs at the charity, told GB news: ‘Paul O’Grady was a great supporter of rescue dogs, and in fact, any animals and you could tell that through his presenting.
‘He didn’t do it as a job. He did it because his love for them shone through and he was a hugely empathetic person hugely caring.
Pupils and teachers from Aldington Primary School pay their respects to Paul O’Grady with picture collages of their drawings of dogs along the route of his funeral
‘Thank you Mr O’Grady!’: Heartfelt tribute to the late entertainer by pupils and teachers from Adlington Primary School, as they hold up banners and drawings along the funeral procession route
A person writes out signs outside the Walnut Tree Pub in Aldington, Kent, ahead of the cortege for Paul O’Grady travelling past
A sign outside the Walnut Tree Pub in Aldington, Kent, ahead of the cortege for Paul O’Grady travelling past on the way to his funeral at St Rumwold’s Church
Pupils and teachers from Aldington Primary School pay their respects to Paul O’Grady with picture collages along the funeral procession route
Crowds begin together before the hearse carrying the coffin of Paul O’Grady passes through the village of Aldington in Kent
‘He is entirely synonymous with Battersea, but he did an awful lot of other things. He won an RSPCA Animal Heroes Award because of his work with animals, and he even fostered a sheep at his smallholding that had been abandoned.
‘It’s down to him that that the animal was rescued.’
‘He was hugely empathetic and compassionate, and I think that’s the really important message that I think your viewers need to take home as today’s funeral happens.
‘He also had this amazing knack of bringing the public with him and tapping into British public’s love. of animals.’
Mr Bowles also explained about the Battersea ‘Guard of Honour’, whose dogs have also honoured Queen Elizabeth and Queen Camilla on visits to the south London rescue home.
He said: ‘The dogs are all wearing pennants and they just they sit there in a line, and I’ve never seen this guard of honour misbehave at all. They must pick the dogs extremely well. They are all very, very well behaved, well obedient.
‘They are encapsulating the message that Paul put across that if you want a good, well-behaved well-researched dog, go and get a rescue dog. And I think that is testament to what he was saying in his messages over the last 13 years on the series of the love of dogs.’
A private event is planned to take place at Port Lympne Safari Park near his home after the funeral, which is just three miles from Aldington where Paul lived and where he often judged animal competitions.
Meanwhile, nearly 300 miles away from Aldington in Paul’s hometown of Birkenhead, fans were expected to line the streets with their rescue dogs to say their own goodbye at the time of the funeral.
Organiser Janine Ferguson said the event was to ‘show our respects and celebrate Paul O’Grady’s life together.
She wrote on a local Facebook group: ‘Please All let’s give Paul O’Grady the best send-off from Birkenhead on the day. Let’s do Paul O’Grady Proud.
‘RIP Paul O’Grady you will be forever in our hearts, gone but you will never be forgotten ‘
Janine told the Globe: ‘I’m a great lover of Paul O’Grady and I was absolutely traumatised when I heard that he had passed. It really upset me, I think it did everyone… It was devastating to hear because he was so loved by everyone.’
She said the plan is for people to ‘line the streets with their families and bring their dogs as a sign of respect.’
‘I’ve asked for all local rescue dogs and cats’ homes to attend as well so we can collect donations from everyone there,’ she added.
‘It only started off as a small idea but it has gone absolutely mad. I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive reaction and the feedback to it.
The funeral of the comedy and TV stalwart is taking place between 2pm and 4pm, with music provided by the Salvation Army Band.
Fans were shocked and heartbroken when the news of his death was announced last month.
O’Grady had spoken openly about his struggles with heart disease, which his death certificate – obtained by the Daily Express – showed was linked to his death.
The grandfather-of-two had three heart attacks between 2002 and 2014, while he also battled kidney failure and was unable to work for two months after contracting Covid in 2022.
Both his parents and grandparents died of heart issues, while his brother and other members of his family had also suffered heart attacks.
The star shot to fame as trailblazing comic drag act Lily Savage before becoming one of the country’s best-loved TV presenters and DJs.
Ex-ballet dancer Andre Portasio, who married O’Grady in 2017, paid tribute to his ‘humour, wit and compassion’ in a statement announcing his death.
O’Grady had his first attack at just 46, where he was rushed to hospital and underwent a two-hour surgery.
After this, he gave up smoking, having previously been reported to get through 40 cigarettes a day.
Locals have also been invited to line streets near Paul’s home as the cortege passes through the village where he lived. Pictured: Paul O’Grady and partner Andre Portasio
But just over four years later the TV presenter was back in hospital after a second heart attack at the age of 51.
And after an attack of angina in 2013, O’Grady was also reported to have had a third heart attack in 2014.
Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome – or SADS – is when a person’s heart stops suddenly and unexpectedly and the cause cannot be found.
This stops the heart from pumping blood around your body, stopping breathing and starving the brain of oxygen.
Also known as Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, it affects around 500 people in the UK every year.
His death certificate was registered six days after his death by his PA and agent Joan Marshrons.
In 2022 O’Grady also contracted Covid-19 while filming in Malta, leaving him breathless and unable to work for two months.
If the electrical impulses controlling your heartbeat go wrong, it can cause an abnormal heart rhythm known as an arrhythmia.
O’Grady married Portuguese lesbian barmaid Teresa Fernandes in 1977 to stop her deportation. They divorced in 2005.
Decades earlier in 1974, he had his only child, a daughter called Sharyn Mousley, with his dear friend Diane Jansen. O’Grady is also a grandfather to Sharyn’s son Abel, who was born in 2006 and is now aged 16, and Sharyn’s daughter Halo, born in 2009.
Paul O’Grady’s partner Andre Portasio released a new picture of the entertainer smiling broadly while wearing white angel’s wings
Paul O’Grady hosted classic TV quiz show Blankety Blank as his alter-ego Lily Savage
Speaking after Mr O’Grady’s death, Mr Portasio said: ‘It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul has passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening.
‘We ask, at this difficult time, that whilst you celebrate his life you also respect our privacy as we come to terms with this loss.
‘He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends, family, animals and all those who enjoyed his humour, wit and compassion.
‘I know that he would want me to thank you for all the love you have shown him over the years.’
O’Grady became a household name in the early noughties, known for his wit and love of animals, and hosted a string of television programmes including his self-titled daytime chat show, The Paul O’Grady Show, which began airing in 2004.
He also took over the reins from Blind Date’s long-running presenter and his close friend Cilla Black, who died in 2015, to host the Channel 5 reboot of the show in 2017.
He also fronted Blankety Blank as well as ITV’s award-winning For The Love Of Dogs.
The final series of the ITV show aired this month, paying tribute to the late presenter and leaving viewers in tears.
The national treasure was made an MBE in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to entertainment. He attended the ceremony with his daughter Sharyn.
Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-11994173/Dogs-TV-stars-fans-line-streets-pay-respects-ahead-Paul-OGradys-funeral.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490&rand=1270