Leeds hotel fixes it for Sir Jimmy to lie in state

Jonathan Brown joins a queue of mourners filing past television presenter's golden coffin

Lenin has had 87 years. For Jimmy Savile, a disc jockey turned turbo-charged charity fundraiser, the honour of lying in state was to last just a single day.

The Yorkshire flag and the Union Jack had been flying at half-mast above the art deco façade of The Queens Hotel in Leeds from first light yesterday. By the time the doors opened just before 10am, a 50-strong queue had formed.

And they continued to come until long after dark – 5,000 braving the November cold and gloom to pay their respects to the Technicolor life of the late Sir Jimmy.

He will be laid to rest later this week, interred in suitably eccentric fashion – decked out in his favourite tracksuit in a grave near his coastal holiday home in Scarborough, buried at a 45-degree angle so he can "look out" over the sea.

This, the first of three days of mourning, is the nearest Yorkshire gets to a state funeral. There were many fans of his long radio and television career, but there were also those who had been touched in some quiet way by his unique brand of larger-than-life altruism.

A mixture of curiosity and respect had drawn them to experience this final strange fix-it for a man who brought thousands of dreams to life. They filed slowly past the gold-coloured coffin with its five enormous sprays of white roses, his two This is Your Life books, a candle, a crucifix and a final cigar.

Richard Firth, 34, dressed in tracksuit and sweatband, had travelled up from London despite Sir Jimmy having ignored his childhood plea to fix it for him to train with the (then) Leeds United goalkeeper John Lukic three times. "I'm calling today's journey a 'Jim'll-grimage'. It just feels like [we're] doing the right thing," he said.

The mood was neither mawkish nor ironic. This was the gritty industrial city's tribute to a celebrity of the pop and mass-broadcasting age who, despite the lure of money and fame, did not lose sight of his origins right up until his death last month at his Leeds flat, aged 84.

"A kind man, a star, a gentleman – one of the very best," said the message from Ray from the old Mecca dancehalls that Sir Jimmy ruled in the 1950s, after his recovery from a near fatal coal-mining accident. He was "Yorkshire's own hero" and "a Leeds lad done well", others wrote in the books of condolences.

Typical of those that made the journey was Josephine Varey, 57, a cleaner who worked alongside him at Leeds Royal Infirmary in 1972. She recalled how he would "keep every bugger on their toes" as he patrolled the wards, putting in full shifts as a porter between television shows. "He would do anything for anyone," she said. Former Royal Marine sergeant Clive Crawshaw, 70, had come to remember his former charge. So had Susan Thompson, 67, who met him when he came to her Bradford youth club in 1959.

Sir Jimmy's nephew, retired primary school head teacher Roger Foster, 66, admitted that lying in state had not been the star's idea, but said he would have approved. "His whole life was spent with ordinary people I think he would revel in it. "

A requiem mass will be said for Sir Jimmy later today at St Anne's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Leeds.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower