Celebrities, former leading BBC executives, family and friends today paid tribute to Ray Butt, the original producer of BBC Television sitcom Only Fools and Horses, during a moving funeral at a Suffolk church.

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Mr Butt, who lived at Hemingstone and who died earlier this month aged 78, played a key role in the award-winning comedy series which at its peak it attracted 15 million viewers a week.

Today, Mr Butt’s funeral was held at All Saints, Ashbocking, near Ipswich, and was attended by TV stars, leading lights from the BBC, family and friends.

In a kind and personal handwritten letter to Mr Butt’s partner of 35 years Jo Blyth, Sir David Jason, who was unable to attend because of tight work deadlines, credited Mr Butt with helping him gain the role of Derek Trotter in the hit series which was regularly voted the nation’s favourite sitcom.

Sir David said: “What a sad blow it was to read of Ray’s passing, he was such a great character and one I shall never forget, for it was he who helped me attain the part of Derek Trotter in Only Fools. My thoughts will be with you all.”

During the service tributes included those by John Challis (Boycie in Only Fools and Horses), Gareth Gwenlan, head of comedy for the BBC 1982-1990, and Ray’s daughter Jenny McBean.

Rev Catherine Beaumont, priest at Ashbocking, who led the service and knew Ray, said: “He was an East End boy made good and as Sir David Jason has said in a letter to his partner for 35 years Jo, “we have lost a real Cockney sparrow”.

“Ray once told me rather grumpily that he did not believe in God, but God clearly believed in Ray. Ray made full use of all the, to me anyway, God given talents he had.”

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