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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 22:19 GMT
Final send-off for John Peel
By Caroline Briggs
BBC News in Suffolk

John Peel
John Peel graced the airwaves for over three decades
Everyone at the funeral of John Robert Parker Ravenscroft knew it was coming.

John Peel - as he was known to millions - had often spoken of Teenage Kicks, by The Undertones, as being the song he wanted played at his funeral.

As the opening bars resonated around the 500-year-old St Edmundsbury Cathedral, in Suffolk, it was an emotional end for the family, friends and admirers of the legendary DJ.

The cathedral city of Bury St Edmunds had swelled to accommodate the hundreds of Peel fans who flocked to his funeral on Friday.

Musicians from across the generations mingled with the public as they paid their final respects to the influential broadcaster who died of a heart attack last month.

Some were old friends - others friends from the airwaves - but each had a story to tell about how Peel had influenced their lives.

Family love

The lucky few members of the public who managed to fill the final few pews inside the building were as diverse as the music he played.

Old and young - some dressed in t-shirts and jeans, others in suits, school uniforms, and a leather jacket with The Clash splashed across the back - had queued for a place inside.

They joined hundreds of mourners inside the cathedral while up to 2,000 more braved the chilly November day to listen to the service which was broadcast to the churchyard

Fans and friends of John Peel share their thoughts and memories at his funeral

Shrouded in red flowers and foliage in honour of Peel's beloved Liverpool Football Club, his coffin was greeted outside by applause and carried into the church to the strains of Mozart's Ave Verum.

Many of the mourners, led by his wife Sheila and four grown-up children, echoed the sentiment by wearing a splash of red in a hat, a tie, a scarf or a flower.

The service, led by Reverend Canon Deidre Parmenter, reflected Peel's love for music, his family and football team.

Tributes were paid by Paul Gambaccini and Peel's brother Alan Ravenscroft, who talked of his "extraordinary big brother".

Gambaccini, who worked with Peel at Radio 1, said: "You broke more artists than any broadcaster in the history of radio... every artist was once new. Every artist once needed John Peel."

We all know there is a little less decency in the world and a little less music and for the last time I say, thanks John
Paul Gambaccini, DJ

He reeled off the names of bands Peel helped on the path to success, including Pink Floyd, Elton John, White Stripes and Pulp.

Gambaccini also talked about Peel's love for Liverpool Football Club and recounted the day he put up a picture of former Liverpool player Kenny Dalglish in the office, with the caption: "God - a likeness".

'Thanks for the music'

He ended: "We all know there is a little less decency in the world and a little less music and for the last time I say, thanks John."

Family friend Charlie Bell read out an affectionate letter penned by Peel's four children, William, Alexandra, Thomas and Florence.

In it, they paid tribute to their father and recounted tales of life at Peel Acres, their family home in Suffolk.

They said: "We have often been asked what it is like to have John Peel for a dad. A lot of people saw him as a father figure.

"Apart from the fact that he was a lot cooler and more culturally aware than we are, the reality is we have never had another dad but we could not have asked for a better one."

John Peel's coffin is carried into the church
Peel's coffin was swathed in red flowers

For a man whose eclectic taste defined his career, music during the service ranged from Roy Orbison's Running Scared to a Rachmaninov piano concerto.

Members of the Stowmarket Choral Society - of which Peel's wife Sheila is a member - also sang during the hour-long service.

The funeral was brought to an end by Peel himself, whose familiar voice resonated around the high-arched ceiling of the cathedral through clips of radio broadcasts.

Resting place

"I'm fabulously lucky, I've got everything I wanted as a kid - a house in the country, an outstanding wife, really great children and a job on the radio," he could be heard saying.

"If I drop dead tomorrow, I'll have nothing to complain about - except that there'll be another Fall album out next year."

His words were followed by a recording of a Liverpool Kop singing You'll Never Walk Alone, as many in the drizzle outside sang along.

And as the strains of the Liverpool anthem died, Teenage Kicks burst into life to escort Peel's coffin out of the cathedral to his final resting place.

It was left to the mourners both inside and outside the cathedral to show their final appreciation to the man who influenced so many, with a final round of applause.

Huge crowds turn out to pay tribute to legendary DJ



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