Belfast Telegraph

Belfast says goodbye to Jimmy Ellis

The people of Belfast have paid tribute to one of their favourite sons at the funeral of Z-Cars actor Jimmy Ellis.

Crowds applauded outside City Hall as the cortege paused for a few minutes on a slow journey around landmarks close to the star's heart.

Earlier actors Jimmy Nesbitt and Adrian Dunbar were among mourners who offered support to the actor's family at a service at St Mark's church in the Sydenham area of east Belfast where he grew up.

Ellis, who is survived by his wife Robina, son Toto, daughter Amanda and three grandchildren, died from a stroke in Lincoln Hospital on March 8 aged 82.

His son said his father was a "generous hearted man" who was always proud of his Belfast roots.

"The last thing we made sure he heard in his ear was that he was a legend, a hero and that we all loved him," Mr Ellis told mourners.

The star of stage and screen was best known for playing Bert Lynch in BBC police drama Z-Cars, which ran from 1962 to 1978.

He studied at Belfast's Methodist College, Queen's University and at the Bristol Old Vic before starting his acting career at Belfast's Group Theatre in 1952.

The cortege made its way past both Methodist College and Queen's on its way to a private burial service.

His career also saw him star in television series including Doctor Who, In Sickness And In Health, Ballykissangel, The Bill, Casualty, Heartbeat, Lovejoy and Only Fools And Horses.

He played bullying father Norman Martin in the 1982 production of Too Soon To Talk To Billy - the first of a trio of Graham Reid plays focusing on working-class Ulster Protestants.

Sir Kenneth Branagh, who was then just out of drama school, played his son Billy.

Tributes penned by a number of high profile actors were read out during the funeral service.

Sir Kenneth said he would never forget his generosity to him.

"He was a highly intelligent, funny and kind man, and a tremendous actor... He will be deeply missed by all his colleagues on screen and on stage," he said.

A tribute from Belfast born Hollywood star Ciaran Hinds described Ellis as "a wonderful, warm-hearted man".

"A true artist," he added.

"And it was always a joy to be in his company."

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