Dean Sullivan and Princess Diana shared 'laughter' says royal butler at Brookside star's funeral

Dean Sullivan died 29th November 2023 after a battle with cancer. Credit: PA Images

A royal butler has paid tribute to Dean Sullivan saying the Brookside star and Princess Diana shared "laughter" during phone calls.

Sullivan, best known for playing Jimmy Corkhill in the long-running Channel 4 soap Brookside, died 29 November 2023 after a short illness.

The soap's creator Phil Redmond, alongside actors Claire Sweeney and Sue Johnston, were amongst those attending his funeral at Liverpool Parish Church on Tuesday.

The Sing Me Merseyside choir performed Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah during the service, before performing You’ll Never Walk Alone as the coffin was carried out of the church.

Former royal butler Paul Burrell was also in attendance at the service, after meeting Sullivan when he arranged for Princess Diana to make a secret visit to the soap’s set.

Burrell said: "I don’t think people realise Diana was so friendly with Dean.

“He’d ring her at Kensington Palace and I’d put the call through and I’d listen to all the laughter upstairs.”

(left to right) Claire Sweeney, Sue Johnston, Phil Redmond, Sue Jenkins. Credit: PA Images

Kieran Mahoney, a Brookside superfan, also attended the funeral and spoke of how Dean would "be truly missed".

He said: "I'm sure I speak for the millions of fans who Dean brought joy to in his portrayal of Jimmy Corkhill. We say goodbye to him today but his memory is truly going to live on.

"Every time that us fans rewatch an episode and see a spectacular argument between him and his long-suffering wife Jackie, the ongoing feud with Ron Dickson, and all of Jimmy's scams and get-rich-quick schemes. We tuned in and we loved every single minute of it.

"We've truly lost the iconic face of Brookside. He brought everything."

Dean Sullivan was the longest serving actor on Brookside

Jimmy Corkhill suffered with drug addiction and marital issues and was responsible for the deaths of two characters, but fans stuck by him.

"He was the ultimate loveable rogue", Kieran added.

"Whatever Jimmy did, we loved him anyway. That's the kind of special guy he was and that's the only thing that Dean could have brought to the role.

"Nobody else could have done it exactly like him."

Sue Johnston, who played Sheila Grant, read the lyrics to The Beatles song In My Life before blowing a kiss to Sullivan’s coffin and saying: “Goodbye darling, sleep well.”

Sullivan’s sister, Joy Boyce, said: “He was a Liverpool character and even 20 years after the show he’d be recognised wherever he went.”

“He will be missed beyond belief by all his family and friends. He was intelligent and articulate and so many sought him out because of his wise advice and support.”

He was known as 'Deano' to his family. Credit: PA Images

Rector of Liverpool Revd Canon Dr Crispin Pailing said: “I think the way that the country, not just the city, has reacted has astounded us a bit because Brookside, it’s 20 years since it went off our screens, yet for so many that face, that Jimmy Corkhill face, is still the same.

“Just before he died in hospital I was helping him with some forms, filling them in for him, and I filled in his name.

"Then it said: ‘Have you ever been known by any other name?’ And I thought: ‘What do I write in there?’

“I think the world knows him by a different name.”

Sullivan won two British soap awards during his career and also starred in BBC’s Doctors, ITV’s The Royal and ITV’s CrimeStories.

Unscripted - Listen to the ITV News Arts and Entertainment podcast