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Thousands say sad farewell as Cilla Black returns home for final time

By Pat Hurst

Showbiz stars and thousands of fans said "Ta-ra girl" as Cilla Black returned to her Liverpool home one last time.

Her funeral cortege was clapped and cheered as fans stood five deep, some throwing roses onto the hearse as it arrived for the requiem service at St Mary's RC Church, where her family were joined by a galaxy of showbiz stars.

Sir Tom Jones, Carol Vorderman and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber were some of the VIPs among the 340 mourners in the church, while comedian and close friend Paul O'Grady gave a humorous, touching eulogy.

He said: "I loved her dearly. Cilla, I would just like to say, 'thanks for all the fun, thanks for all the laughs - ta-ra girl, I will see you on life's highway'."

Black's voice filled the church as 1964 smash hit Anyone Who Had A Heart pierced the silence, before the service closed with a poignant recording from the band she counted as friends, The Beatles' melancholy The Long And Winding Road.

Earlier, thousands of fans stood in silence as her coffin passed by, some wiping away tears as the cortege made the two-mile journey to the church in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton.

It was here, as a 25-year-old star of the swinging sixties, that she had a Catholic wedding blessing after marrying her much-loved Bobby Willis earlier in 1969.

Black had a humble start in Liverpool's dockland, working as a cloakroom girl at the Cavern Club on her way to stardom as the Fab Four shook the world.

Sir Cliff Richard called her "the greatest TV presenter of all time" and praised "all the fabulous things about her".

"Being driven here was a fantastic experience, you forget how much people loved her," he added, before singing Faithful One in tribute to his friend.

Her son Robert Willis said Black was a "wonderful lady who had touched all our lives and brought joy and laughter" to those she knew.

"She treated everyone just as she saw them, no matter their background."

Close friend Jimmy Tarbuck described Black as "Liverpool's Cinderella. She was the first lady of showbusiness," he added.

Mourners erupted into spontaneous applause as pall-bearers carried her coffin out of the church to the hearse.

Black (72), who died after a fall at her Spanish villa on August 1, was buried alongside her mother Priscilla and father John at a private ceremony at Allerton Cemetery in Liverpool.

Belfast Telegraph


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