Police escort for Z Cars' Jimmy Ellis as his cortege journeys through his beloved city of Belfast
Published 20/03/2014 | 01:30
The PSNI is to give Belfast's most famous TV policeman Jimmy Ellis an escort on his final journey through his home city as the actor's grieving family allow people here to share their final farewell.
Mr Ellis's wife Robina and children Amanda and Toto decided that tomorrow's funeral cortege will travel past significant landmarks in his life and career following a service for him not far from his old home in east Belfast at midday.
It's estimated that the procession for Mr Ellis – best remembered for playing the role of Bert Lynch in Z Cars in the 1960s and 1970s – will arrive at Belfast City Hall around 2.30pm before moving on to Queen's University and Methodist College, where the actor, who died at 82, was educated.
Mr Ellis died from a stroke earlier this month in a hospital in Lincoln, but he always said he wanted to buried in Belfast.
On its way to the city centre, his cortege will cross the Queen's Bridge which inspired the title of the controversial Sam Thompson play Over The Bridge about sectarianism in Belfast's shipyard and which Ellis famously fought to get staged in the city.
As it goes over the bridge, staff on a tour boat and on the Belfast Barge will sound their horns in honour of the actor who never lost his accent or his love for the city of his youth.
Stars of television, film and theatre are to attend Mr Ellis's funeral in St Mark's Church, Dundela.
The Bishop of Clogher, the Right Reverend John McDowell, will lead the service, which has been described as one of thanksgiving for Mr Ellis's life. It's understood that Amanda and Toto will play prominent roles in the church, where writer CS Lewis was baptised.
A number of actors including Enniskillen-born Adrian Dunbar are to pay tributes to Mr Ellis, who paved the way for Northern Irish stars like Sir Kenneth Branagh, Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt to get their breaks across the water and internationally.
It's also believed that a recording of Mr Ellis reading a poem about east Belfast will be played.
Invitations to the service state that mourners should "wear what Jimmy would have loved to have seen you in. Black is not obligatory".
Immediately after the service, Mr Ellis's coffin will be driven past his old family home in Park Avenue before travelling down Connsbrook Avenue past Victoria Park Primary School – formerly Strand PS – where he was a pupil and where he unveiled a plaque in his honour several years ago.
He will be buried after a private service in Castlereagh, and afterwards there will be a wake for Mr Ellis in a city centre hotel.
Tomorrow night UTV will broadcast a special half-hour tribute to Mr Ellis produced and directed by his friend, the poet Paul Yates.