IM Jolly, my widow is not. Row at comic's funeral

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The Independent Online

The very idea would no doubt have provoked a furious sermon from the pulpit of the Rev I M Jolly, the lugubrious Presbyterian minister created by Rikki Fulton in his long-running comedy show Scotch and Wry.

But when the Scottish comedian died last month at the age of 79, his widow insisted that the funeral would be conducted in a manner more in keeping with his favourite character's name than his nature. Black ties were banned and Clydebank Crematorium rocked with laughter as the 500 mourners, including Gregor Fisher and Elaine C Smith of the BBC comedy Rab C Nesbitt, remembered one of Scotland's most-loved comedians.

So perhaps it is only fitting that the event has since descended into an unholy row. The jollity was first punctured by a newspaper advertisement placed by Kate Fulton, ostensibly to thank the many who had turned out to remember her late husband. But there was a sting in the tail.

"It would all have been quite perfect had not Johnny Beattie refused to move from the front row reserved for the funeral party, causing mayhem, but there's aye a something!" she signed it off.

Nor was that the end of it for Mr Beattie, another comedian and fellow member of the Scottish showbiz aristocracy.

Yesterday Mrs Fulton told The Daily Record: "Johnny ruined the funeral by sitting in the front row. The front row was reserved for the funeral party. The minister asked him to move but he refused to budge."

She continued: "I wanted to make a point, that's why I wrote that. It was most certainly not a joke. There were seven of us in each funeral car and 14 seats in the front row of the chapel for us. It was all ruined when Johnny and Mary Milroy sat in the front."

In his defence, Mr Beattie replied: "I don't believe it. This will be the talk of showbiz circles. I presumed the front four rows were reserved for people in the business.

"There was no offence intended. I only sat there because I assumed that Mary, being [Fulton's former partner] Jack Milroy's widow, was entitled to be there."

Mr Beattie added: "Mary sat at the end of the row in case she got emotional and had to get out. It really surprised me that she hadn't been officially invited to sit at the front. That seemed bizarre."

Later both sides were keen to draw a line under the dispute, which threatened to under-mine an otherwise light-hearted event.

Police officers escorted the funeral procession in appreciation of another of Fulton's most endearing characters, Supercop, and there was plenty of laughter in the eulogies from friends and family.

Kate Fulton paid tribute to Quayside nursing home, where her husband had spent the last two years of his life as his Alzheimer's disease worsened.

She thanked staff for their "loving care of Rikki, so much so that he was sure he was a member of staff". She also thanked the police for honouring the one they called their "latest recruit".