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Saturday, May 15, 1999 Published at 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK


Final toast to Oliver Reed

Oliver Reed: Famed as much for his drinking as his acting

Actor Oliver Reed was buried in Ireland, as a song from one his biggest successes - Oliver! - rang out from onlookers.

The burial, in St James's church, was close to his home in the County Cork village of Churchtown, and took place after a service in nearby Mallow.

But as the cortege approached the cemetery, onlookers broke out into Consider Yourself at Home from the Lionel Bart musical.

It was a rousing farewell to an actor dubbed a hell-raiser for his antics off the screen.

Mr Reed died of an apparent heart attack in a Malta bar nearly two weeks ago.

His wife Josephine and his two children, Mark and Sarah, from previous relationships, were at the ceremony.

[ image: His wife, Josephine, who was his companion since the age of 16]
His wife, Josephine, who was his companion since the age of 16
Hundreds of wreaths from well-wishers, from both inside and outside showbusiness were sent, including those from the management of several Cork bars.

Mr Reed was known for his love of alcohol and pubs, and had said recently that he wished to die in an Irish pub close to his home.

But despite rumours that the funeral was to be a star-studded affair, including Michael Caine, Roger Moore and Stephen Spielberg, they were not to be seen.

[ image: Michael Winner:
Michael Winner: "Reed was a quiet, sensitive man"
Film director Michael Winner, who worked with the actor on his last completed film Parting Shots, attended however. He described him as a "wonderful, kind man" and a "perfect gentleman", whose real-life persona belied his portrayal by the media.

Northern Ireland's former snooker champion Alex Higgins was also there, looking drained after treatment for throat cancer.

Local police appeared to be surprised at the amount of interest generated by the event, with many among the crowd outside saying they had fond memories of Mr Reed.

His brother Simon described him as "exciting and exhilarating", and said: "He was like a God to me."

'The mother of all parties'

He said that despite the opinion of those who saw the actor's life as wasted and sad, it could not be further from the truth.

"Oliver saw life for exactly what it was and he decided he couldn't take it seriously so he attacked it," he said.

"What he was concerned about was the last happening or naughtiness he had or I had - or more importantly what the next one was going to be."

Mr Reed's wife and family had arranged a marquee for a final party in his honour on the land beside their home.

"We should have the mother of all parties tonight to celebrate a massively strong, sometimes appalling, sometimes impossible, incredibly generous, hugely talented and quite unforgettable man," said his brother.

"Rest in peace? Don't think so tonight anyway," he told the mourners.

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