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Monday, November 1, 1999 Published at 16:56 GMT


Cilla's farewell to husband Bobby

Cilla arrives for the funeral accompanied by sons Robert and Jack

Showbiz stars have gathered to say a fond farewell to Bobby Willis, the husband of Cilla Black who died nine days ago aged 57.

Celebrity friends, including Dale Winton, Des O'Connor, Sir George Martin, Liza Tarbuck, Sir John Mills, BBC director-general John Birt and his successor Greg Dyke were among those who attended his Buckinghamshire funeral.

The ceremony at Saint Mary the Virgin Church in Denham - the village where the couple lived - was followed by a cremation in a private family-only ceremony.

[ image: Cilla and Bobby together in 1997 when she was awarded her OBE]
Cilla and Bobby together in 1997 when she was awarded her OBE
The Blind Date presenter's husband of 30 years, who was also her agent and the architect of her success, died in October at London's Royal Free Hospital after a long battle with liver and lung cancer.

Cilla and her family arrived for the Anglican service of thanksgiving and remembrance, conducted by the Rev Adrian Hirst, in a fleet of black Rolls Royces.

Accompanied by her three sons, Robert, 28, Benjamin, 24 and 17-year-old Jack, Cilla entered the church, trying to muster a smile for the assembled well-wishers.

More than 60 wreaths of condolence had been sent, many from friends the couple had made in the entertainment industry over the decades.

Among them was a bunch of lilies from Sir Paul McCartney and his children. Sir Paul's former Beatles bandmate Ringo Starr, comic Bob Monkhouse, Liverpool pop legend Gerry Marsden and Liverpool Football Club also sent flowers.

Included with Bob Monkhouse's flowers was the message: "For Bobby who has bequeathed his strength, wisdom, and love."

[ image: Sir George Martin and Sir John Birt were among those paying tribute]
Sir George Martin and Sir John Birt were among those paying tribute
Marsden, from the 1960s band Gerry and The Pacemakers, wrote: "Remembering the good times, your old Scouse mates Gerry, Pauline, and all the family."

Cilla's own tribute to her husband included nine deep red roses, from a rare variety named after her at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Bobby's eldest son, Robert, said: "My father was a good man, he enjoyed and appreciated life, and enriched the lives of everyone around him."

He paid tribute to his father's warm sense of humour, saying: "My father always saw the funny side of life.

"He was a great thinker and a great listener, his advice was sound and wise. In business he was shrewd, but above all he loved his family, and we loved him."

He then read a poem by Henry Scott Holland which began: "Death is nothing at all, I have only slipped away into the next room."

Other celebrities attending the service were the singer Michael Ball and football pundit Ian St John.

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