Rubettes singer’s tribute to devoted wife

The funeral cortege of Shirley Thorpe.
The funeral cortege of Shirley Thorpe.

“The female equivalent of a totally diamond geezer” was among many touching tributes made by musician Tony Thorpe in memory of his beloved wife Shirley.

Tony, a singer and guitarist with pop band The Rubettes in the 1970s, fought back tears at her funeral at Burnley Crematorium where the couple’s favourite songs were played.

Floral tributes at Shirley Thorpe's funeral.

Floral tributes at Shirley Thorpe's funeral.

The colourful, London-born musician had first met Burnley girl Shirley in 1966. They were married two years later and were together when she died at home in Burnley from cancer aged 63.

In a celebration of her life, Tony opened the service playing the banjolele singing “Spread a Little Happiness”.

Mourners fought back tears when the deeply personal song “Shirley” which Tony composed in 1978, was then played.

Addressing mourners, some of whom had travelled many miles to pay their last respects, Tony told how they first met at Cleopatra’s club, Cardiff, where Shirley was performing as Shirley Dee.

He said: “I adored Shirley from the moment I saw her and have worshipped her ever since.

“She was the female equivalent of a totally diamond geezer. The Marge to my Homer Simpson, the Margaret to my Victor Meldrew.

“May flights of angels take you to your rest kid. God bless you. I love you and I’ll see you later.”

Tony described how, in the early days, their relationship was “a National Express romance” as they lived at opposite ends of the country.

He added the Cole Porter-penned song “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”, which was played at the service, had become their song as it reminded them of those days.

Tony, who battled a drink problem for several years, said that during his life of ups and downs, Shirley was “a constant up”.

He described how she brought up their autistic son Clay while he was touring the world and said she coped with a smile and sense of humour.

Shirley’s brother Derek also spoke, recounting their childhood with sister Jean, and her fondness for bacon butties.

Musicians Ken Bradshaw and Nicky Fox also performed, before the service ended with “I’ll See You in my Dreams” from the George Harrison memorial concert, which Tony and Shirley watched together shortly before her death.