Mourners say last goodbye to John Peel

HUNDREDS of friends, family members, colleagues and fans were at St Edmundsbury Cathedral today to say goodbye to radio DJ John Peel.Mourners included Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker and BBC radio colleagues Jo Wiley and Paul Gambaccini.

HUNDREDS of friends, family members, colleagues and fans were at St Edmundsbury Cathedral today to say goodbye to radio DJ John Peel.

Mourners included Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker and BBC radio colleagues Jo Wiley and Paul Gambaccini.

And two dozen yellow roses were sent with the message: "Thanks for all the great music. You were a hero for so many, much love, Elton."

Radio 1 controller Andy Parfitt and other colleagues from Mr Peel's 40 years of broadcasting also joined mourners to say a final goodbye to John.

The 900-seat cathedral was open to the public, but family and friends were expected to all but fill the inside the building.

A public enclosure was built outside with a sound feed from the cathedral for edited highlights from the service - including the dean's welcome, the eulogy and the final sequence of music.

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A private family ceremony was following the service. Queues outside the cathedral started forming at 7.30am and two hours later dozens of people had gathered.

First in the queue was Ian Parker, 35, who travelled from Portsmouth.

He said: "I've listened to John Peel for the last 20 years and he shaped my listening through that time.

"Music is very important to me and I found his eclectic taste in music has got me into lots of styles I wouldn't have done and had never heard anywhere else.

"I have lots of respect for the man and want to pay tribute to him with like-minded people. The world's a sadder place and he was taken too early. I left home at 4.30am but I am sure there will be lots of people coming a long way for this."

Not far behind him in the queue were Richard and Anne-Marie Stewart, of Westerfield Road, Ipswich.

Mr Stewart said: "When I moved to Ipswich in the mid '60s I used to lie in bed at night listening to his show, forcing myself to stay awake.

"He has shaped my musical tastes and he played revolutionary sounds other people were not dreaming of playing in those days.

"I was young and open to influence and he certainly influenced me."

Performing at the ceremony were members of the Stowmarket Choral Society.

Mr Peel's widow, Sheila, who is a soprano in the group, asked her fellow performers to help remember her husband.

June Shepherd, a member of the group, said "Sheila has been a member for a couple of years now and is very dedicated and keen.

"John used to come to all the concerts she performed in and always supported her love for singing.

"We sometimes perform at the funerals of members and their families as a mark of respect and when Sheila asked us it was natural for us to say yes as a tribute to him.

"Singing well today is the best we can do for him.

"It's a very sad loss as he was a popular, highly thought of man.

"It came as a great shock to his family, who loved him very much."

The group will be singing the hymns at the service as well as two pieces chosen by the family - Panis Angelicus by Cesar Franck and Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart.

The group performed the two pieces in front of Mr Peel at a concert last month.

John's death devastated the village of Great Finborough, where he lived.

Carol Armstrong, a former member of the village youth club which John set up, said: "I feel OK at the moment. It won't hit us until we get into the ceremony."

Stowmarket councillor Vera Waspe, who lived near the Peels, said she knew the family well from when they both had small children.

She said: "Our thoughts are with the family and Sheila. It is very sad for everybody."

Mr Peel died of a heart attack on Monday October 25, while on holiday in Cuzco, Peru. He was 65.

His body was flown back to Suffolk seven days later.

He was Radio 1's longest-serving DJ - famed for giving exposure to punk, reggae and hip-hop long before they crossed over into the mainstream - and also presented Radio 4's award-winning Home Truths programme.

He had lived in Great Finborough for 30 years.

Since his death, more than 15,000 fans have logged on to the BBC website to pay tribute.

Memories and respects also flooded in from friends he had made in Suffolk - including Ipswich Town Football Club chairman, David Sheepshanks.

Mr Peel was a lifelong Liverpool supporter but during his years in Suffolk had become a fan of Ipswich Town.

The Evening Star was one of the last newspapers to interview Mr Peel in August.

He told us how he wanted to write his autobiography, not only to share the anecdotes of his life, but to

provide for his wife in the future.

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