Denise Robertson funeral: Eamonn Holmes pays tribute to ITV matriarch


Eamonn Holmes led the tributes at the funeral of agony aunt and national treasure Denise Robertson, calling her "the matriarch of Studio 8´´.

Friends, family, fans and celebrity colleagues Phillip Schofield, Holly Willoughby and Ruth Langsford packed Sunderland Minster, with hundreds more on the road outside.

The twice widowed great-grandmother, who won a place in millions of This Morning viewers' hearts with her no-nonsense yet warm approach to helping countless people, died from pancreatic cancer aged 83.

An Order of Service for Denise Robertson's funeral

She worked on the daytime show since its start in 1988.

At the service, Eamonn spoke movingly of the colleague he had known since they worked together at the BBC in the 1980s.

He said: "You think when you leave school or university or college that's you finished with passing tests - until you met Denise Robertson, the matriarch of studio eight.

"Never was there a more shrewd judge of character.

"She could spot a fake at a hundred paces but once you were in as a graduate of the Robertson Academy of Life then you had a mum, an aunt, a best friend, a shoulder to cry on and a friend for life."

Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford at the funeral of Denise Robertson

Before the service, he spoke of following her advice to marry Ruth, to get a dog and to have his hips fixed so he could walk the new family pet.

Eamonn told mourners his friend had saved many desperate people's lives with her support which lasted well past any broadcast when people rang in with problems.

He said presenters all feared being found out: "Well for 28 seasons, 28 seasons at ITV, a record in itself, the glass lens never tired of Denise Robertson, it never found her out, because Denise was the real deal."

An emotional Phillip said before the funeral how he was desperate for her approval when he joined This Morning, which broadcast from Studio 8 at the South Bank in London.

Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield at the funeral of Denise Robertson

"She was feisty, really, really tenacious and would power through authority.

"If someone told her 'no', it wouldn't make any difference."

And Holly said: "She was an incredible person and a great friend. She was also a remarkable woman.

"She blazed her way through life and never let anything hold her back."

Phillip Schofield wipes away a tear at Denise Robertson's funeral

Ruth also paid tribute to her colleague's love of bright colours and recalled her "wafting" fragrantly down the corridors of the TV studios.

"We shared a lot of laughs with her as well," she said.

Eamonn said: "She was a national treasure, I don't think we will see anything like that again.

"No-one can expect to have a gig for as long as she did - 28 years on one programme."

His wife added: "She had it because she was so good."

Ruth Langsford, Eamonn Holmes and Denise Robertson accept the Best Daytime Television award for This Morning during the 2015 National Television Awards

Denise's son Mark spoke of her charity work, being patron to almost 40 good causes, an MBE, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Durham and, in Asda, "that lass off the telly".

He said: "When mum took on her role at ITV it was on strict understanding that they would help every correspondent, not just those who made it to air.

"And ITV were good to their word."

The Rev Canon Sheila Bamber led the hour-long service, after which the crowd outside the church applauded as the coffin was driven away in the hearse.

Denise Robertson's coffinbeing carried in to her funeral

Phillip was visibly moved after the service as he spoke to other mourners.

Denise, who was buried at a private ceremony, leaves her third husband Bryan Thubron, who was a childhood sweetheart she met again in later life.

She was awarded an MBE a decade ago and given the Freedom of the City of Sunderland.

Denise Robertson with her MBE