Paul O'Grady makes final journey through village of Aldington as thousands pay their respects

Thousands of people gathered in Aldington today to pay their respects to TV star Paul O'Grady.

People from across the country travelled to Kent, where they lined the streets and applauded as Paul made his final journey through the village he loved so dearly.

His husband Andre Portasio was emotional as he rode on the carriage drawn by two black horses with one of couple’s dogs on his lap.

Nine limousines followed with a cortege including motorbikes behind them.

He will be laid to rest with a private service featuring a guard of honour with dogs from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and an appearance from the Salvation Army Band.

O’Grady, who rose to fame as his platinum wig-wearing drag queen alter ego Lily Savage before going on to host a string of television programmes, died “unexpectedly but peacefully” at his home on March 28 at the age of 67.

Thousands lined the streets. Credit: PA

Hundreds of people had arrived in Aldington by lunchtime on Thursday, with some of first seen arriving shortly after 9am.

Many ITV Meridian spoke to said they wanted to pay their respects to a 'great man', who brought joy and laughter to households up and down the country.

The funeral of the comedy and TV stalwart will take place on Thursday afternoon (20 April), featuring a guard of honour with dogs from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, in a special nod to O’Grady who became an ambassador for the animal charity in 2012 and rehomed five dogs while filming his multiple award-winning ITV show Paul O’Grady: For The Love Of Dogs.

Some of the mourners stopped by the local pub, which is hosting a bake sale. Credit: ITV Meridian

Following his death, Battersea set up a “tribute fund” which has raised more than £270,000 for the charity.

On Thursday (20 April), the procession leading to the private service is expected to carry O’Grady’s coffin through his home town of Aldington in Kent, with local fans expected to gather along the streets to pay their respects and mourn the TV personality.

It comes after O’Grady’s husband Andre Portasio posted in local Facebook groups inviting the local school and community to line the streets to mourn the comedian, expressing his “deep gratitude” for the “overwhelming outpouring of support and love” he has received in the wake of O’Grady’s death.

A dog waits outside the Walnut Tree Pub in Aldington. Credit: PA

Born in Birkenhead on the Wirral, Merseyside, O’Grady later adopted Kent as his home for more than 20 years ago, with his husband writing: "While the funeral will be a private ceremony, as many of you know, Paul cared a lot about his local community.

"We have therefore requested that the funeral procession passes through Aldington before heading to the church, as a way of marking Paul’s affection for the area."

Residents were invited to stand on Roman Road, Forge Hill or New Road Hill between 2.10pm and 2.45pm on Thursday, although Mr Portasio, who married O’Grady in a low-key wedding ceremony in 2017, asked to "respect the villagers and the local area".

The Salvation Army Band is expected to play during the private service on Thursday (20 April).

Following the death of O’Grady, names from across the drag world including Divina de Campo, The Vivienne, Cheryl Hole and Cheddar Gorgeous led tributes alongside those praising his advocacy for LGBT+ equality including former Labour politician and campaigner Peter Tatchell and fellow comedian and actor Eddie Izzard.