Sir Cliff Richard said that it seemed ‘outrageous’ that Cilla Black was gone and called her death ‘just a hiccup in our relationship’ as he paid tribute to the singer and TV presenter at her funeral.
Celebrities including Sir Tom Jones, Jimmy Tarbuck and Lord Lloyd-Webber packed into St Mary’s Church in the Woolton suburb of Liverpool to say a tearful goodbye to the star who died on August 1.
Lord Lloyd-Webber (Peter Byrne/PA)
Fans and mourners also filled the streets to pay tribute to a young woman who found fame in the halcyon days of British pop in the 1960s and went on to become one of the nation’s favourite TV presenters.
After her coffin was brought into the church to the strains of Clair de Lune, guests and family members sang the hymn All Things Bright And Beautiful.
A hearse at Cilla Black’s funeral (Owen Humphreys/PA)
And after a greeting from Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool Thomas Williams, Sir Cliff began the opening tribute.
He said: “I can’t think of Cilla in the past tense, it just seems outrageous. There are just some people that you always think will be there.
“You forget how much people loved her. She became our greatest TV presenter, possibly of all time.”
Sir Cliff Richard (Peter Byrne/PA)
Praising her talent, Sir Cliff said: “The one thing that hit me originally was that she was a woman of commitment and dedication.”
He added: “She had the determination and above all she had the gift – she was able to do what she set out to do.”
After drawing laughter from the congregation with an anecdote about her ‘lovely legs’, he said: “My memories of Cilla are going to be very, very happy ones.”
And in a message to Cilla herself, he said: “Cilla, this is just a hiccup in our relationship, and we will see you again.”
A floral tribute makes a nod to Cilla’s musical heritage (Peter Byrne/PA)
Sir Cliff then performed his song Faithful One to celebrate her life and mourn the passing of one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers.
Her son Robert Willis said Black was a ‘wonderful lady who had touched all our lives and brought joy and laughter’ to those she knew.
“Her pure enthusiasm, self belief and wonderful sense of humour made being with her a joy and a pleasure,” he added.
Cilla Black’s son Robert Willis (Joe Giddens/PA)
Mr Willis said she was a ‘trailblazer in the fields of music and television’ and ‘set the bar high and it’s still there’.
Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, a close friend of Cilla, led the Prayers of the Faithful, during which he called her ‘our treasured friend, Liverpool’s Cinderella’.
He said: “She was the first lady of showbusiness. To be born a lady is an accident; to die one is an achievement.”