Sir Paul's final farewell to Linda

IT WAS a massive, moving and unique tribute to a woman whom few had thought of as a national figure, let alone a national heroine, until her death tapped a well of affection.

In Trafalgar Square last night, Paul McCartney's hymn-like anthem "Let It Be" rang out in the twilight as hundreds paid tribute to Linda McCartney, who died in April of breast cancer at the age of 56.

Inside the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, the McCartney family and 700 friends - including former Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr - sang the words that McCartney wrote originally in honour of his mother, who also died of cancer.

In an emotional address, Sir Paul told guests how he was first attracted to Linda after he saw "a light in her eyes". "As a lover she was one of the best," he said. "She was comfortable, she was never difficult. We had a lot of fun making those babies.

"She was one of the kindest people - a lot of people have written to me to say how kind she was. Through our kids, our beautiful kids, her spirit lives on," he added.

As he finished speaking, two horses Schoo and Tinsel, Christmas gifts from him to his wife, were led up the aisle of the church.

Sir Paul and Linda's four children - Heather, 36; Mary, 27; Stella, 26; and James, 21 - accompanied him to the service. Also present were Sir Elton John, Sting, Spike Milligan, David Bailey, Joanna Lumley and The Who's Pete Townshend. It was thought to be the first time in nearly 30 years the three former Beatles had been together in public.

As the guests filed in, pipe major John McGeachy of the Campbeltown Pipe Band performed "Mull Of Kintyre". Tracks from both the Wings days and Sir Paul's solo career provided further musical tributes as the Brodsky Quartet performed twice with songs such as "The Lovely Linda", "Maybe I'm Amazed", and "My Love" - songs that Paul McCartney wrote for his wife.

The actress Joanna Lumley read "Death Is Nothing At All", by Henry Scott Holland. The writer Carla Lane said her address, specifically about Linda's commitment to animals, came from "the people in the square" - the animal rights activists and vegetarian campaigners who had gathered outside for a candlelit vigil.

She told the guests: "They scoffed in the beginning didn't they? Cranks they called us but you took the path where no one had gone; you promised them a voice and you held their terror close ... Lady Linda we cannot see you, but we still hear you."

At the centre of the vigil was a pair of eight-feet wings on which people inscribed messages to be passed on to the McCartney family. A a 20ft banner read: "Linda The Animal Angel".

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