Paul O’Grady funeral: Tributes pour in as Lily Savage star laid to rest during emotional service

Paul O'Grady, best known for his drag alter ego Lily Savage, has been laid to rest.

Comedian and Lily Savage drag star Paul O’Grady has been laid to rest following an emotional funeral service in his home village of Aldington, Kent.

The gay TV star died “unexpectedly but peacefully” on 29 March at the age of 67, with multiple reports suggesting he died of sudden cardiac arrhythmia.

At the time, tributes flooded in from LGBTQ+ people and entertainment stars around the world, as O’Grady was remembered for bringing drag culture into the mainstream.

Ahead of the funeral procession, fans, mourners and countless dogs lined the streets in Aldington and in O’Grady’s birth town of Birkenhead, Cheshire, to pay their respects to the star.

The procession began just after 2pm at St Rumwolds Church in the small Kent village, with O’Grady’s husband Andre Portasio heading the private service. 

Portasio arrived at the ceremony on a horse, holding one of O’Grady’s pet dogs, Conchita, while the coffin itself paid a floral tribute to his much-loved canine companion Buster, who died in 2009.

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Buster became a national treasure after appearing alongside O’Grady on his Channel 4 show, The Paul O’Grady Show.

Earlier it was revealed that O’Grady’s funeral would include a group of dogs from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, acting as a guard of honour at the ceremony.

The star filmed his popular ITV documentary For The Love of Dogs at the London pet rehoming centre.

Reverend Canon Roger Martin led the service, while the Salvation Army Band played songs including “Tomorrow” from Annie – which O’Grady was starring in at the time of his death.

O’Grady’s husband Portasio had previously told local community groups in Aldington that they were welcome to come and remember Paul before the service began.

“While the funeral will be a private ceremony, as many of you know, Paul cared a lot about his local community,” he wrote in an Aldington community group on Facebook, according to the BBC.

“We have therefore requested that the funeral procession passes through Aldington before heading to the church, as a way of marking Paul’s affection for the area.”

O’Grady’s famous friends and fellow LGBTQ+ equality campaigners were in attendance, with actor and activist Michael Cashman reading a Shakespeare poem at the service.

“My heart will be grieving, but I’ll be smiling about the love and the fun,” Cashman told BBC Radio Kent ahead of the funeral. 

Famous faces at the ceremony included fellow comedian Jo Brand, TV presenter Gaby Roslin, Rolling Stones singer Ronnie Wood, Julian Clarey, and Eastenders actress Linda Henry.

Paul O'Grady with husband Andre Portasio who has revealed funeral details.
Paul O’Grady with husband Andre Portasio. (Getty)

LGBTQ+ equality campaigner Peter Tatchell, who previously revealed that Paul O’Grady was working on a campaign to force the police to apologise after arresting him during a raid at queer venue Royal Vauxhall Tavern in 1987, arrived wearing a purple shirt.

“I’m at Paul O’Grady’s funeral today,” Tatchell wrote in a tweet. “He was a great entertainer and humanitarian who stood up for the rights of LGBTs and animals. He wanted a fair and equal society for everyone.

“Paul backed our campaign for a police apology for past homophobia. We’ll do it in June in his memory.”

O’Grady was on stage performing as Lily Savage when the police raided the bar and arrested him, alongside ten other LGBTQ+ punters.

‘RIP Paul’ began trending on Twitter in the UK early this morning (20 April) and throughout the day, with thousands sharing their memories and condolences.

In Birkenhead, fans chanted O’Grady’s name and sang “Who Let The Dogs Out” in tribute.

A couple of years before his death, O’Grady revealed exactly how he’d like to be remembered by fans.

When a interviewer for The Guardian questioned him on how he would want people to remember him, he simply replied: “I don’t care, because I won’t be here.”

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