‘The village is poorer without him’: Paul O’Grady’s neighbours reveal ‘down-to-earth’ star used to leave drinkers in hysterics on pub trips with Julian Clary – as fellow comic pays tribute to ‘fierce and funny friend’
- O’Grady lived in a £2.5million home in village of Aldington, near Ashford in Kent
- Neighbours say village is ‘poorer without him’ and he’d often make others laugh
- LATEST: Tributes flood in as TV world rocked by Paul O’Grady’s death aged 67
Residents in Paul O’Grady’s village today paid tribute to the star and revealed how he and fellow local Julian Clary used to leave fellow drinkers at their pub in hysterics.
O’Grady, who died last night aged 67, lived in a £2.5million home in the village of Aldington, near Ashford in Kent, which he bought from comic Vic Reeves in 1999.
He was a regular in The Walnut Tree Inn, where he would often be accompanied by friend, comedian and fellow villager Clary – and the pair regularly made others laugh.
Neighbours of O’Grady, who shot to fame playing his alter ego Lily Savage, also told MailOnline today that their village was ‘poorer without him’. And the pub landlady said O’Grady would often enjoy a pint of cider or Moet & Chandon champagne.
Also today, Clary tweeted a comical picture of the duo this morning and said: ‘Farewell to my fierce and funny friend. I’m going to miss you. #RIPPaulO’Grady.’
Julian Clary tweeted a comical picture of the duo this morning, in a tribute to Paul O’Grady
The star suffered two heart attacks, in 2002 and 2006, and was rushed to hospital in 2013 with chest pains so had cut back his visits to the 18th century pub in recent years.
Walnut Treet Inn pub landlady Karen Barrett said O’Grady popped in throughout his two decades living in the village of Aldington
However, he would still shop every other day in the village store – ordering freshly made Cornish pasties – rather than visit the local Waitrose supermarket like other local celebrities.
Linda Harman, a local councillor, said residents there were devastated by the loss.
She said: ‘Like everyone, we woke up to the extremely sad and shocking news that Paul had passed away.
‘He was a staunch member and supporter of this community who always have his time – and sometimes his money – to support events in the village.
‘Just last summer he judged the local dog show, which he absolute loved. When Julian Clary lived in the village, he and Paul would often be seen enjoying a few drinks together in the pub. They were great and very funny as you’d expect, the other punters used to love it.
‘Paul had a couple of health scares, though, and so after that took it a lot easier and cut down on his visits, especially after Julian moved away.
‘Paul was as people have described today, a fabulous, kind, normal person who never once stood on his celebruty status.
‘We loved having him here and we are going to miss him a lot.’
When Julian Clary lived in the village, he and Paul O’Grady (pictured in London in 2018) would often be seen enjoying a few drinks together in the pub, according to a local councillor
Ms Harman recalled how during the Covid pandemic she had read reports in the news that the star had been struck down with the virus.
Linda Harman, a local councillor in Aldington, said O’Grady was a ‘staunch member and supporter of this community’
She added: ‘We had a Covid support group at the time and would phone and basically reach out to those who had it to make sure they were ok and to ask if they needed any help.
‘I didn’t know who to reach out to Paul as he was such a big star so I knew that from when I worked in PR, I had his agent’s email. So I emailed the agent and said that we had this support group and if Paul needed anything we were there for him.
‘The agent replied and thanked me for getting in touch but the next thing my mobile rang and it was Paul on the other end of the line, thanking me for my concern and the for the kind offer of support… but added that he was fine and the papers had got it wrong!
‘He was so down-to-earth, warm and friendly, it was like talking to my neighbour.’
Wiping away tears, local pub landlady Karen Barrett said O’Grady popped in throughout his two decades living in the village.
She said: ‘I last saw him last year and he was donating a children’s book he’d written for a raffle.
‘He was an amazing man, so down-to-earth, natural, warm and funny. If you never met him, you missed out.
‘He came in quite a bit when he first moved here. He’d come in with Julian Clary and they were absolutely brilliant. Out of the two, I’d say Julian was the quieter.
Paul Grady was a regular in The Walnut Tree pub in the village of Aldington, Kent
‘Paul’s favourite tipple was either a pint of cider or his favourite champagne, which was Moet & Chandon. He also loved oysters.
‘He’d had a couple of heart attacks in the space of four years about 15 years or so ago so he wasn’t such a regular visitor more recently.
‘But he had his 50th birthday here at the pub with about ten friends and when his friend and manager, Brendan Murphy, died, he held the wake here.
‘I’m devastated by the fact he’s gone because we had such great times.
‘One of the regulars, Brenda, who is sadly no longer with us, she asked me to invite Paul to her 60th birthday. She was from Liverpool originally and had had heart problems too.
‘Paul came in during the afternoon and apologised and said he couldn’t stay long but he chatted to Brenda and her friends, bought her some flowers, a card and one of those Nodding Busters he used to have on his TV show.
‘I remember one of my staff asked him if he could wish her mother a happy birthday because she was a big fan and he went in and chatted to her and everyone else like he’d known them all for years.
In Aldington Post Office, Muttukumarasamy Skandakumar, 66 and his wife Devika would see O’Grady most days
‘The member of staff thanked him and he said ‘no problem, I’d do anything for Karen’.
‘And he would. My son had cancer a few years ago and unbeknownst to me a friend of mine wrote to him and told him what we as a family were going through.
‘He came in a few days later and left us tickets to see him on stage at the London Palladium to sort of give us a break from everything.
‘More recently, when Covid happened and the pub had to shut, he asked me if I needed any help financially and I was so touched I started crying. But he hated all that and said ‘oh stop’.
‘He’s quietly donated to the local school, to the local Kaleidoscope Trust, he has touched so many lives.
‘I didn’t see him much over the last few years for one reason or another but when I did we’d embrace and we’d talk for ages. He had a way of making you feel like family – even if you hardly knew him.
‘I sent him a Christmas card and wrote him a little message because I hadn’t seen him for a while, saying that I’d become engaged to a lovely man and am due to be getting married this summer and that my life was on the up.
‘He wrote back and said he was thrilled for me and suggested that we should soon meet up again. That won’t happen now of course but I’ll treasure all those wonderful memories.’
In Aldington Post Office, Muttukumarasamy Skandakumar, 66 and his wife Devika would see him most days.
Paul O’Grady would often visit the Aldington Post Office in the village and have a Cornish pasty
Devika smiled and said: ‘He was a lovely man, we always looked forward to him coming in because he was so friendly and chatty.
‘He loved our Cornish pasties and steak slices and would always buy them for lunch.
‘We last saw him last week just before he we t up to Scotland. He said he was performing in Edinburgh and wanted to get the train but instead was flying because it was quicker.
‘It was the first time in a while where he’d been in as he told us he’d been away, I think to Thailand.
‘But whenever he did come in to the shop and people were starstruck and asked for a picture him, he’d always oblige. He was very good with his fans.
‘He had a caring side too. I recently fell down the stairs and he’d heard about it and was asking how I was and if I was ok.’
Muttukumarasamy added: ‘He was a very popular man in the village. He did a lot for local charities so it’s a big loss. I’m just a year younger than he was. Sixty seven is no age to pass away, my heart goes out to his family.’
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