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Crowds mourn 'brilliant' Sir Cyril

Veteran Liberal Democrat politician Sir Cyril Smith has been laid to rest after a memorial service he organised from his deathbed.

Hundreds of mourners attended the celebration of his life in his beloved home town of Rochdale.

Sir Cyril, who used to weigh up to 29 stone, died the Friday before last at the age of 82.

The famously-outspoken politician, who served the town as MP for 20 years, planned the celebration in a nursing home during his final weeks.

His friend Lord Alton said he received a letter from Sir Cyril after his death telling him he must read the poem Death Is Nothing At All. "He was a brilliant political organiser," he told the congregation at Rochdale Town Hall, after reading the Canon Henry Scott Holland poem. "He was a remarkable man, a wonderful man, a great friend and we shall all miss him greatly."

Sir Cyril also chose five hymns for his service, including Abide With Me, and the Frank Sinatra classic My Way, which was sung as the coffin was taken out of the room.

Chris Davies MEP spoke of the politician's "prolific letter writing skills" and said he always sought political advice from the lifelong bachelor.

More than 400 people filled the town hall for the service, while hundreds more braved the rain to stand outside and listen to it on loudspeakers.

It was followed by a private committal at Rochdale Crematorium for close friends and family, including his brother Norman Smith.

Sir Cyril's nephew, Craig Smith, told the congregation that the politician was like a second father to him and his siblings. "He was there when we needed him most," he said. "Uncle Cyril taught us to treat people how we wished to be treated ourselves. I know my dad Norman will miss him more than anyone. They were inseparable."

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