Goodbye Russell

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A HOST of stars turned out for what was described as actor Russell Hunter’s "final performance" at a packed funeral service.

Around 300 fellow actors, politicians, friends and family of the much-loved entertainer filled Edinburgh’s Warriston Crematorium yesterday to bid farewell to the veteran star of stage and screen.

Mourners standing in the sunshine took more than ten minutes to file in to the 250-capacity Lorimer Chapel before Hunter’s coffin, adorned with an orange and green tropical bouquet and embossed with his name, was carried in by three pall-bearers to the sound of the second movement of Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony.

Those unable to get a seat listened to the celebration of his life broadcast via a loudspeaker outside.

The ceremony was attended by his wife and stage legend Una McLean, Taggart actress Blythe Duff, Trial and Retribution star David Hayman, High Road and Balamory star Mary Riggans and Hooked on Scotland presenter Paul Young.

Veteran actor Johnny Beattie, who caused a stir at the recent funeral of Rikki Fulton by sitting in the front row against the wishes of the comedian’s widow Kate, was also in attendance but sat near the back.

Hunter’s family chose a collection of his favourite readings and music in place of hymns and prayers.

Actor and friend Tony Roper told the assembled mourners several anecdotes, which were followed by hoots of laughter.

"I just cannae believe he’s deid. He’s been lying there for 20 minutes and hasnae said a word," he said.

"That’s the first time I’ve been in Russell’s company and he’s been silent."

He urged the mourners to join in a standing ovation in celebration of the actor’s life.

A eulogy was also given by Magnus Linklater, chairman of the Scottish Arts Council and former editor of The Scotsman.

Mr Beattie, who now appears in BBC Scotland soap River City, paid tribute to the actor after the service.

He said: "We will never forget him. He was just a fantastic guy with so much talent."

Among the political figures attending, which included former Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell and Edinburgh North and Leith MP Mark Lazarowicz, was Lord Provost Lesley Hinds.

She described the service as a "very moving ceremony".

She said:"It was a fantastic tribute to him today and there were so many laughs. I think that is what he would have wanted."

Hunter appeared in programmes such as Callan and The Sweeney and recently received acclaim for his role in the award-winning film American Cousins.

His role in the movie, which won the Special Jury Prize at America’s Savannah Film Festival, proved to be his last in a career that spanned 60 years.

He died of lung cancer at the Capital’s Western General Hospital on February 26.

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