Page last updated at 18:47 GMT, Saturday, 17 October 2009 19:47 UK

Boyzone fans are united in grief

By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, Dublin

Boyzone fans
The crowd lined the streets of Dublin to listen to the funeral service

Thousands of people gathered outside St Laurence O'Toole's church in north Dublin to pay their respects to Boyzone singer Stephen Gately on the day of his funeral mass.

"He was just an unbelievable guy, he's going to be badly missed," says one Boyzone fan Susan Martin.

Speaking after the funeral, she says her friends spent the night outside to ensure they had front row places outside the church.

"I'm a bit upset at the moment, as you can see I'm still crying," she says, clutching a tissue.

Her friend is so distraught she cannot talk, only sob.

Noleen Floyd, 30, says neighbours living near the church took care of anyone who had chosen to take part in an all-night vigil.

"They were amazing, they came out and gave us cups of tea and let us use their bathroom. One lady came out with pillows and a duvet," she says.

"One woman even offered us her spare bedroom, but we wanted to stay here and light some candles."

Kerry Darter, 38, from Essex, left home at four in the morning with her daughter to make sure they were at the church in plenty of time.

"We're die- hard Boyzoners. We've seen them at least three or four times," she says.

Clutching a huge bouquet of flowers, her daughter Emily, adds: "His death hasn't sunk in yet, but today it probably will, after the funeral."

Floral tributes

As the day wore on more people arrived, roads were closed and the crowds swelled behind barriers.

Everywhere people could be seen hanging out of windows, standing on walls and perching on dustbins. Some residents stood on chairs to get a better view.

A makeshift flower stall was set up outside one house. Farewell banners were hung from balconies and some people wore hats with Gately's face emblazoned across them.

People from the Sheriff Street area in the north of Dublin where Gately grew up, knew the star and remember him fondly.

All my friends wanted to stay at home and watch the funeral on TV, but I felt I had to be here
Katie Pryke

Radio DJ Alan Hunter, 50, first met Gately when the singer was still a teenager.

"He was an absolute gentleman, friendly, enthusiastic and bubbling with energy, the sort of guy you liked to have around," he says.

"He was a very beautiful character, a great spirit and very generous."

The crowd cheered as stars such as Louis Walsh, Jason Donovan and some members of Westlife turned up to the church.

But as the bells rang out and the service began, a hush fell among the assembled fans.

Jackie Harrington, from Portsmouth, thought the service, which included a live performance from Boyzone, was "beautiful", saying Gately "meant the world" to her.

Katie Pryke joined the crowd, having travelled to Dublin all the way from Salisbury by herself.

"I wanted to come and pay my respects to him because he was my favourite member," she says.

"I was very shocked to hear about his death, I kept reading the news just to double-check that there hadn't been some terrible mistake, but unfortunately not.

"All my friends wanted to stay at home and watch the funeral on TV, but I felt I had to be here," she adds.

'Broke my heart'

For many it was hearing Boyzone's lead singer Ronan Keating break down during his tribute that upset them the most.

As his voice broke with emotion, the sadness was clear to see on some of the crowd. And when he finished his eulogy, the crowd outside and congregation inside clapped.

Crowd member Paula Geraghty says Keating and other band members' tribute made the ceremony "even more emotional".

And 15-year-old Amy McLoughan, from Dublin, says the speech "broke my heart".

Dubliner Carol Mulholland, 20, says she has been a fan of Boyzone from the beginning and hopes they will continue to carry on Gately's legacy.

"The songs that they sang, they just got you through the bad. I'd love them to go on because they are just such a big part of me and who I am," she says.

As the coffin was carried from the church by the members of Boyzone, Gately's brother and the band's manager, the crown burst into another round of applause and threw flowers at the hearse as it carried the singer on his final journey.

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