Sir Jimmy Savile‘s home city is putting aside three days to celebrate the performer’s life, with fun, bling and tributes to his trademark whackiness.
Conscious that just about everyone in Leeds has benefited from the millions he raised for local hospitals – or just being shunted around on the trolleys he pushed on his weekly stint as an NHS porter – a homespun version of lying in state will start the ceremonies on Tuesday. Savile’s 15 nephews and nieces have agreed to local pressure for his gold-coloured coffin to stand for a day in the Queen’s Hotel, close to the clubs where he started his career as a DJ.
Made of steel, the coffin will then need eight Royal Marines to carry it to a requiem mass on Wednesday from a cortege whose route will pass both the terraced house of his birth and a silent tribute from porter colleagues, drawn up outside Leeds General Infirmary.
Many celebrities are expected to join the file of mourners passing the coffin and signing a condolence book, but the emphasis throughout the ceremonies, which will end with Savile’s burial on Thursday overlooking the sea in Scarborough where he had a holiday home, will be on the local lad. Famous internationally for his TV and radio work, he is as popular in Leeds and Yorkshire as a familiar face who kept his childhood friends and lived just up the road from where he was born.
Savile, 84, was found dead last week at his flat overlooking Roundhay Park. His niece Amanda McKenna said: “We’re overwhelmed, honoured and speechless at the reaction to his death – the man who was and will always be just our Uncle Jimmy.”
Tributes Savile would certainly have enjoyed have come from the likes of his regular hairdressers in Oakwood, who posted on a thread on the Yorkshire Evening Post website: “Thanks for the stories and laughter when visiting us, love, x and RIP, old friend He had a hairdresser??? I’m not knocking someone who was obviously a very good man, it’s just that he never looked as though he’d seen a hairdresser in years!”
At his requiem mass at St Anne’s Roman Catholic cathedral eulogies are to be given by local friends – his best mate Howard Silverman, a friend from the Infirmary, and a running companion, Neil Littlewood, who pounded the streets of Roundhay alongside that unmistakable tracksuit.
Savile’s is to be buried wearing a Royal Marines’ beret in honour of his grit as one of only two civilians to finish a sponsored 30-mile commando march across Dartmoor.
There will also be a tribute from Broadmoor secure psychiatric hospital where he worked as a volunteer porter.