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Hundreds expected at church funeral for Cilla

by Antony Bushfield

The 72-year-old singer will be laid to rest in her home city following a funeral mass at St Mary's Church, Woolton.

Black died earlier this month after falling at her home in Spain.

An inquest into the death of the Blind Date and Surprise Surprise star heard that she died accidentally after falling and hitting her head at her villa on the Costa del Sol.

PA wire

Father Graeme Dunn is priest of St Anthony's church, just a few hundred yards from the street where the singer grew up: "I think she was very proud of this area.

"It definitely formed her into the person she was. People from Scotland Road are very open.

"They say what they think and that upsets some people, but it is a characteristic of people from here.

"They are very open, very welcoming and very jovial and all those things you could say about Cilla."

PA Wire

Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool Rt Revd Thomas Williams will led the Catholic service which will be followed by a private ceremony at Allerton Cemetery where the singer's parents are buried.

Her family have asked that mourners line the two-mile route using the whole length of Woolton Road as far as Blackwood Avenue, ahead of the 1pm service.

Celebrity friends including Sir Cliff Richard are expected to attend.

Sir Cliff will pay his own musical tribute, performing his song Faithful One at the start of the service.

Fellow TV celebrity and close friend Christopher Biggins will give a reading during the service, before Liverpudlian entertainers Jimmy Tarbuck leads mourners in prayers and Paul O'Grady, who called Black his "best friend" gives a final eulogy.

Following her death Christian Sir Cliff said she was "full of heart" and "always so upbeat".

"Her passing away is a particular shock because despite the aches and pains we all suffer, she was always so upbeat," he wrote in the Sun.

He added: "Some people will always be with us and Cilla is one of those people.

PA Wire

"I will always think of her as outrageous, funny, incredibly gifted but above all full of heart.

"She was a very special person, and I have lost a very wonderful friend, I will miss her dearly. God bless her."

Cilla Black was a Catholic although it is thought her faith was shaken when her husband, Bobby, died in 1999.

She married him at a registry office in London but it is thought she demanded that he took part in a blessing at St Mary's Catholic Church in Liverpool to satisfy her and her family's faith.

Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Headstone of John and Pricilla White, parents of Cilla Black, in Allerton Cemetery.

Born Priscilla Maria Veronica White, she grew up with her parents and brothers above a barber's shop in the tough dockland district of Scotland Road, the inner-city area ravaged by wartime bombing.

Black's first 'performances' were as a youngster standing on a chair during post-pub singsongs with her family in the days long before TV entertainment.

But her big break came after she took a part-time job as a cloakroom girl at The Cavern Club, met The Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein and rose to fame and fortune in the Merseybeat era of the Swinging Sixties.

Younger generations grew up with her as a staple of Saturday night TV, on her long-running popular shows Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise.

Black's career spanned six decades.

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