Funeral held for Sir Cyril Smith in Rochdale
- 13 September 2010
- From the section Manchester
Hundreds of mourners have attended a memorial service in Rochdale for the funeral of the town's former MP, and mayor, Sir Cyril Smith.
Sir Cyril served as the Liberal and later Liberal Democrat MP for the town between 1972 and 1992.
He died on 3 September, aged 82, after helping to organise the service at Rochdale Town Hall from his deathbed.
A smaller service was held afterwards at Rochdale Crematorium for close friends and family.
The famously-outspoken politician, who used to weigh up to 29 stone, planned the celebration of his life in a nursing home during his final weeks.
His friend Lord Alton said he received a letter from Sir Cyril after his death telling him he must read the poem Death Is Nothing At All.
"He was a brilliant political organiser," he told the congregation, after reading the Canon Henry Scott Holland poem.
"He was a remarkable man, a wonderful man, a great friend and we shall all miss him greatly."
Sir Cyril also chose five hymns for his service, including Abide With Me, and the Frank Sinatra classic My Way, which was sung as the coffin was taken out of the room.
Chris Davies MEP spoke of the politician's "prolific letter writing skills" and said he regularly sought political advice from him.
More than 400 people filled the town hall for the service, while hundreds more lined the streets outside to listen on loudspeakers.
Sir Cyril's nephew, Craig Smith, told the congregation that the politician was like a second father to him and his siblings.
He said: "He was there when we needed him most. Uncle Cyril taught us to treat people how we wished to be treated ourselves.
"I know my dad Norman will miss him more than anyone. They were inseparable."
Sir Cyril was famously outspoken and could be disdainful of Westminster, once branding Parliament as "the longest-running farce in the West End".
According to Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, the politician commanded huge affection within the party.
Speaking after the service, he said: "When I got elected as the youngest Liberal MP, he became an uncle figure offering advice, being there to say 'that's good lad' or telling me off and putting me on the right lines.
"He was somebody who gave people tough love, he knew that sometimes if you were to benefit he had to give you a talking to, but he had really clear, high standards and principles.
"But above all he remembered he came from Rochdale and was in politics to help people from the bottom up, to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor and help make Britain a fairer place."
Sir Cyril was knighted in 1988 and was awarded the MBE in 1966, when he also served as mayor of Rochdale.
He retired from Westminster in 1992.