The “devastated” family of Gerry Marsden said an emotional farewell to the entertainer as they held his funeral close to his beloved River Mersey in Liverpool.
Marsden, whose band Gerry and the Pacemakers were behind hits including You’ll Never Walk Alone, Ferry Cross The Mersey, I’ll Be There, How Do You Do It? and I Like It, died in hospital on January 3, aged 78.
Sir Kenny Dalglish, who was Liverpool’s manager at the time of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989 when 96 football fans died, was among a group of 30 family and close friends permitted at the private church ceremony due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Marsden’s childhood sweetheart and wife of 55 years Pauline said the family were amazed and comforted by the tributes paid and plan to arrange a memorial service when restrictions are lifted.
In a statement to the PA news agency, Mrs Marsden said: “We, his family, are totally devastated and have been so moved and amazed at the extent of the respect, love and affection received from all over the world.
“When the time is right and we have come out of this terrible pandemic we hope a fitting memorial can be held for him in the city he loved so much.”
Marsden, who had previous heart scares including a triple bypass, went into hospital on Boxing Day after tests showed he had a serious blood infection that had travelled to his heart. He died on January 3.
You’ll Never Walk Alone was played during the funeral by a guitarist while a version of Marsden singing Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying, a song he wrote for his wife, was also featured.
Marsden and his band scored a number one hit with You’ll Never Walk Alone in 1963 and his version became an anthem for his beloved Liverpool football club.
In a personal tribute, Sir Kenny said: “Nobody can underestimate how important Gerry has been to Liverpool Football Club.
“You’ll Never Walk Alone has huge meaning to the lives of Liverpool supporters around the world and is synonymous with the club.
“He will be sadly missed by those who knew him and the millions he never got to meet.”
Steve Rotheram, the mayor of Liverpool City Region, said he felt “privileged” to have counted Marsden as a long-time friend and described the singer as “a fantastic ambassador for Liverpool”, adding: “Gerry’s legacy is his enduring music enjoyed by millions of fans worldwide and a football anthem sung on terraces around the globe.
“But he was a family man and a friend to many.
“I feel privileged he let me into his life, although that makes his passing even more painful.”
Close family friend Arthur Johnson felt it was fitting that Marsden’s intimate funeral service took place near his Merseyside roots.
After attending the funeral, he said: “Gerry loved Liverpool and its people.”
Referring to the lyrics from Marsden’s hit Ferry Cross the Mersey, he said: “He lived close to the banks of the Mersey for all his life and as the words of his song say: ‘this land’s the place I love and here I’ll stay’.”
Born in Liverpool in September 1942, Marsden made his first public appearance aged just 13 as a member of a youth club called The Florence Institute in Liverpool.
In 1962, Beatles manager Brian Epstein signed up Gerry and the Pacemakers, and their first three releases reached number one in 1963 – How Do You Do It, I Like It and You’ll Never Walk Alone.
The group split in 1967 and Marsden pursued a solo career before the band reformed in 1974.
He was awarded an MBE in 2003 for his charity work stretching back to the 1960s.
He leaves a wife Pauline, daughters Yvette and Vicky and grandchildren Tom and Maggie.