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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Charles joins Thaw memorial
Cherie Booth and Sheila Hancock
Cherie Booth joined Thaw's widow Sheila Hancock
The Prince of Wales, Lord Attenborough, Tom Courtney and Maureen Lipman were among 800 guests to attend a memorial service for actor John Thaw in London on Wednesday.

They joined acting colleagues Kevin Whately and Richard Briers, Inspector Morse's creator Colin Dexter, and Cherie Booth, wife of the Prime Minister Tony Blair, in celebrating the life of the actor, who died of cancer in February this year.

Prince Charles with the Rev Nicholas Holtam
Prince Charles, speaking to the Reverend Nicholas Holtam
Two hundred members of the congregation were fans of the Manchester-born star who had sent messages of condolence and support to his wife, the actress Sheila Hancock.

At the end of the celebration in St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, 60 balloons were released to mark each year of Thaw's life, each bearing the message: "Today we remembered John with love."


Lord Attenborough, who directed Cry Freedom - one of Thaw's few film appearances- called him an "exceptional" actor.

"John was known to millions, about 20 million people watched him - there was a very great affection for John," he said.

Many friends and colleagues remembered Thaw's irrepressible humour.

Kevin Whately
Kevin Whately, who played Sgt Lewis in Inspector Morse, attended
Sir Tom Courtney, who met him when Thaw was aged just 16, reminisced: "Another thing we were fond of doing was talking as if we didn't have any teeth - I don't know why we did this - we did it a lot."

The veteran actor added that he was proud to have introduced his friend to classical music, and during the service the Medici String Quartet played the Chorale from Bach's St Matthew Passion, one of Thaw's favourites.

But Thaw's sense of humour was evident too; the choir sang a choral arrangement of The Sun Has Got His Hat On, arranged by Inspector Morse composer Barrington Pheloung.

The actor's own voice was also heard at Wednesday's celebration, when a recording of his final acting performance, as Captain Hook in a musical version of Peter Pan, was heard.

Sheila Hancock and Nadine Roderick
Six-year-old Welsh fan Nadine Roderick attended after writing to Hancock
The church was festooned with flowers and with a portrait of the star placed in front of the altar with a border of blooms.

Sheila Hancock organised the service with the couple's daughter Joanne and the children from their earlier marriages, Melanie-Jane and Abigail.

Thaw was one of the best-loved TV actors of his generation, and his death from cancer of the oesophagus prompted tributes from across the acting and TV profession.

A bursary at Rada - where Thaw trained - has now been launched in his name.


The actor is still held in affectionate regard for his performances as the opera-loving Oxford sleuth Inspector Morse.

John Thaw as Inspector Morse
Thaw became best-known for playing Inspector Morse
The last episode of the ITV1 show in November 2000 was watched by 13 million people.

In the 1970s he shot to fame as Jack Regan in gritty police drama The Sweeney, and in the 1990s he played a crusty barrister in Kavanagh QC.

Hancock, herself a respected actress and comedienne, was Thaw's second wife, and they stayed together for 28 years despite a brief separation in the 1980s.


Picture gallery John Thaw's career
See also:

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