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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Secombe the 'clown' remembered
The Prince of Wales and the Dean of Westminster were among those at the service
The Prince of Wales was among those at the service
Sir Harry Secombe has been remembered at a thanksgiving service as a "jester" who left a valuable comic legacy.

The Prince of Wales was among a group of friends, family and celebrities at Westminster Abbey who paid tribute to the comedian and presenter.

Secombe was knighted in 1981
Secombe: "Records, books, telly, hymns, knighthood..."
A Welsh male voice choir sang Men of Harlech as a Welsh flag flew above the historical London abbey during the hour-long ceremony.

Secombe, born in Swansea, was a founding member of seminal radio show The Goons and was regarded by many as a comic genius.

He died in April at the age of 79 after battling cancer.

Stars including Ronnie Corbett, Eric Sykes and Jimmy Tarbuck joined Secombe's widow, Lady Myra Secombe, and relatives of late fellow Goons, Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine, at the service.

He filled theatres everywhere and he'd be thrilled at the turnout today

Jimmy Tarbuck
Television host Michael Parkinson read memories of the entertainer who he said helped the country through the aftermath of World War II.

"They didn't just make us laugh... they made us feel better," he said.

"Today they are accepted as the godfathers of post-war British comedy, but for those of us who were around at the time they were the jesters amid the austerity of Britain in the fifties."

He also read a 100-word autobiography written by Secombe himself before his death.

Jimmy Tarbuck and Michael Parkinson paid tribute
Tarbuck and Parkinson paid tribute
It ended: "Records, books, telly, hymns, peritonitis, diabetes, knighthood. Songs of Praise, six grandchildren, devoted wife, prostate cancer, stroke, malaria expected soon - winds light to variable."

Fellow Goon Spike Milligan, who was too ill to travel to the thanksgiving service, sent a message calling Secombe "the sweetness of Wales".

Comic Jimmy Tarbuck said Secombe was "a big brother, my favourite mischievous uncle and a dad all rolled into one".

"I'm talking about a 20 stone man of five foot eight who said he had been hit by a lift," he said.

Secombe (centre) was a founder of The Goons
Secombe (centre) was a founder of The Goons
"He had the energy of a pack of hyenas and a laugh to match.

"He filled theatres everywhere and he'd be thrilled at the turnout today."

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr Wesley Carr said: "They called him variously an entertainer, a singer, a comedian and a writer.

"But today we remember Sir Harry Secombe, the clown.

"The clown has an honoured place in human history. He is the one who can make people both laugh and weep, who can puncture pomposity, and from any of life's situations conjure a critical yet funny view."

Myra Secombe
Secombe's widow unveiled a blue plaque to her husband on Sunday
Secombe's widow, Lady Myra Secombe, recently unveiled a blue memorial plaque outside the BBC Radio Studio, London. where The Goons once recorded.

Sir Harry had battled against ill-health for many years, suffering from diabetes, prostate cancer and then a stroke.

Tributes from around the world poured in following his death.

Prince Charles, who had confessed to being a fan, sent a wreath of white lilies at the time with the message: "For Harry with profound admiration and great affection, from Charles."

First broadcast

Sir Harry rose to prominence on BBC radio with his work on the Goons, and was knighted in 1981.

The Goon Show was first broadcast in 1949, and enjoyed a nine-year run.

But he also appeared as a singer, actor and presenter of religious TV programmes.

He was forced to retire through ill-health in 1999.

See also:

11 Apr 01 | Entertainment
Picture gallery: Sir Harry Secombe
20 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Stars bid farewell to Sir Harry
11 Apr 01 | Entertainment
Sir Harry: The ultimate entertainer
11 Apr 01 | Entertainment
Sir Harry's 'joy' greatly missed
11 Apr 01 | Talking Point
Sir Harry Secombe: Your tributes
05 Sep 99 | Entertainment
Secombe bows out of limelight
30 Jan 99 | UK
Secombe suffers stroke
30 Dec 00 | New Year Honours 2000
Spike's comic genius hailed
24 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Sellers tribute unveiled
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