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Last Updated: Monday, 15 September, 2003, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Stars celebrate Dame Thora's life
Dame Thora Hird
Dame Thora was loved by millions
Television stars and politicians were among those who attended a memorial service for Dame Thora Hird on Monday.

Alan Bennett, Sir David Frost, Melvyn Bragg and Victoria Wood joined around 2000 people at Westminster Abbey.

Other famous faces included BBC director general Greg Dyke, Conservative politician Michael Howard and writer Claire Rayner.

Dame Thora, who died in March at the age of 91, was well known for her love of humour.

The service had a light-hearted feel in memory of her sense of fun.

Comic Victoria Wood set the tone when she began a reading with playwright Alan Bennett.

Betty Boothroyd
Former Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, attended

"I was just thinking as Alan and I walked up the stairs, how nice it would have been if one of us had come up in a stairlift," she said, in reference to an advertisement Dame Thora starred in.

The veteran actress appeared in Wood's TV comedy, Dinnerladies.

Dame Thora picked up two of her three Baftas for her Talking Heads monologues, written by Alan Bennett.

"This droll-faced northern girl, who in the course of a long and happy life, took her place amongst the best we have," said Bennett.

Hundreds of fans were also there to pay their respects to the actress, many of them representatives of the 30 charities Dame Thora supported during her lifetime.

Co-star Kathy Staff, who played Nora Batty in Last of the Summer Wine, said: "Thora would be really thrilled with the service. It is a very happy occasion.

"She was a marvellous person with a fantastic sense of humour and she always saw the funny side of things."

Friend Nicholas Parsons said: "I can't be sad today because she had such a wonderful, long life. She was one of the sweetest, liveliest and most down-to-earth people I have ever met. She had no airs or graces whatsoever."

The Lancashire-born star was known to millions for starring in sitcoms like 1960s favourite Meet the Wife, playing Thora Blacklock, and In Loving Memory playing Ivy in the late 1970s.

She joined Last of the Summer Wine in 1985, playing gossip Aunt Edie Pegden.

Dame Thora died after suffering a stroke at her nursing home earlier this year.

Private funeral for Dame Thora
25 Mar 03  |  Entertainment
MP calls for Dame Thora tribute
17 Mar 03  |  England
Tributes paid to Thora Hird
16 Mar 03  |  Entertainment
Thora Hird: A career in pictures
16 Mar 03  |  Photo Gallery
Actress Dame Thora Hird dies
15 Mar 03  |  Entertainment

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