The former Radio 1 DJ, Top of the Pops presenter and Jim’ll Fix It star lay in a gold coffin topped with white roses, the symbol of Yorkshire, in the bar of the Queens Hotel in Leeds yesterday.
According to friends, the coffin will be buried as he wanted, “standing up at a 45-degree angle” so he can look out to sea.
Sir Jimmy’s last unfinished cigar, a crucifix and two bound scrapbooks from his two appearances on This is Your Life lay on a plinth beside the coffin.
Many of those who waited in line had a personal connection with the DJ, who was born in Leeds and died there in his flat overlooking Roundhay Park.
Roy Hunter, from Leeds, was the first person in the queue. He said: “Jim was a great friend of mine. It will mean everything to pay my respects to him today, because I knew him from being a little lad, going in the Mecca nightclub where he was the DJ. He had a good word for everybody.”
Sir Jimmy’s nephew, Roger Foster, said: “I think he would revel in it, because this is what he was about.
“His whole life was spent with ordinary people, he never mixed with celebrity people.”
He said of the coffin: “It was such an obvious choice, bearing in mind that for the whole of his life he used bling. It was a tool of his trade.”
Sir Jimmy’s friend of 40 years, Howard Silverman, said seeing hundreds of people lining up to walk past his gold coffin would have appealed to Sir Jimmy.
“He was a showman right until the end. It’s just a pity he's not here to see it.”
He said Sir Jimmy had often spoken to him about his plans for his funeral, including how he wanted to be buried at a 45-degree angle so he could look out to sea.
“He would tell me all the things that he wanted. Standing up at a 45-degree angle in his grave and ‘It was good while it lasted’ on his headstone.”
A funeral service will be held today at St Anne’s Cathedral in Leeds, after a procession past his childhood home in Leeds and Leeds General Infirmary, with which he had a long connection. On Thursday, Sir Jimmy’s cortege will travel along the front at Scarborough, where he will be buried with a Royal Marines medal and green beret, and a Help for Heroes wristband.
Funeral director Robert Morphet said he had been asked to organise a three-day funeral and staff had been working 14-hour days to accommodate the 84-year-old broadcaster’s wishes.
“In my 32 years doing the job, I have never had a request like it.”
Allan Lyndsay, secretary of Lochaber Highland Games, where Sir Jimmy was chieftain, said a tribute was being planned.
The broadcaster often spent time at Glencoe, where he had a cottage. Mr Lyndsay said: “He attended 36 out of the 39 years the games have been going. He possibly attended our games more than anybody else.”