Celebrities including Sir Tom Jones, Sir Cliff Richard, Paul O’Grady and Lord Lloyd-Webber joined Black’s friends and family to remember 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 presenters.
But while the shock of her sudden death on August 1 at the age of 72 left many still raw, O’Grady had guests in tears of laughter as he regaled them with stories of the capers they got up to during their decades-long friendship.
He told the congregation: “It is so right that she has come home today, because she was a true daughter of London, I mean Liverpool - sorry Cilla.
“She was a great friend. She was full of fun. She was a wonderful woman. She was talented. She was so witty. She adored family. She loved her sons. She loved her grandchildren. She was so proud that she came from Scottie Road.”
There was chuckles as he said: “I am just so grateful that she allowed me into her whirlwind of a life and we spend nearly two decades together hellraising - if you pardon the expression.”
Finishing his tribute to her, O’Grady said: “I loved her dearly. She was just such a great friend. I do not know what I am going to do really - the light went off a couple of weeks ago and it has not gone back on yet. I am just going to miss her so much. Cilla I would just like to say ‘Thanks for all the fun, thanks for all the laughs - ta-ra girl, I will see you on life’s highway’.”
O’Grady left the lectern to applause and laughter from the congregation, and in a touching moment he kissed his fingers and gently pressed them to the coffin before returning to his seat. Earlier, friend and comedian Jimmy Tarbuck called her “Liverpool’s Cinderella”, saying: “If you wrote that story, that’s Cilla Black’s life.”
He added: “She was the first lady of showbusiness. To be born a lady is an accident; to die one is an achievement.”
Sir Cliff also shared his memories of Black, remembering her as “our greatest TV presenter, possibly of all time”.
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.”
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.”
In a message to Black herself, he said: “Cilla, this is just a hiccup in our relationship, and we will see you again.”