HE WAS, he had always said, the “shy boy” of Huddersfield. But today he did not want for friends as the town came together to bid him farewell.
Gorden Kaye, the moustached, waistcoated star of TV’s ‘Allo ‘Allo, was laid to rest at the parish church, to the strains of Ilkla Moor Baht ’At.
He died last month at 75, and though more than 20 years had passed since they performed together, his co-stars in the French resistance farce turned out to see him off.
“He was definitely there looking at it, orchestrating it and he would have loved it,” said Vicki Michelle, who played Yvette Carte-Blanche, to his René Francois Artois.
“It feels like the end of an era, but it’s not because we’re still going, but he was such a big part of our lives for such a long time.”
Rev Canon Simon Moor recalled Kay’s early life and career in Yorkshire. “He accepted himself he was never really a scholar,” he said. “Ironically his only real success at secondary school was in French.”
Kaye - the unusual spelling of his first name was the result of a typing error by someone at the actors’ union, Equity - won the role that made him famous after appearing in another of producer David Croft’s comedies, Are You Being Served?.
The writer Charles Garland, who worked with the late Mr Croft, said in his eulogy: “The part was written for him and, to be honest it was perfect casting.”
He said the “shy boy from Huddersfield” was always hidden under the mantle of a “skilled actor” and “consummate professional”.
He recalled that the last time he had seen Kaye, he asked how he felt after he said he didn’t think he had long to live.
Mr Garland said: “He said, and I quote this here word-for-word, ‘Listen, if you are feeling downhearted I’m sorry to hear it, but you probably know somebody who is more downhearted than you are - go and cheer them up a bit, it’s not that hard’.”
Although he will be forever associated with René, Kaye had a varied early career, including spells at Bolton Rep and a recurring role as Elsie Tanner’s nephew in Coronation Street.
He appeared in all 84 episodes of ‘Allo ‘Allo, which ran for ten years from 1982, and reprised the role in a 2007 special, as well as appearing in a stage version.
But in 1990 he was seriously injured when a piece of wood smashed through the windscreen of his car during a storm. He was left with a scar on his forehead and no memory of the accident.
In a 1989 autobiography, he said his formative years had been characterised by being shy, gay and overweight.
His Allo ‘Allo co-stars paid tributes to him at today’s service.
Sue Hodge, who played waitress Mimi Labonq, said: “I haven’t actually got to grips with the fact he’s not here.”
Kim Hartman, who played Private Helga Geerhart, said she had fond memories of his “infectious laugh”.
She said: “When something really tickled him he just had this incredible giggle. It was so infectious.”
Former Coronation Street actor Ken Morley, who played General von Flockenstuffen, said: “We had a laugh together, he was a very funny guy.”
But it was the comedian Keith Simmons, with whom Kaye served in the showbusiness fraternity of the Grand Order of Water Rats, who summed him up best. He was, he said, “a lovely man and we had great times.”