Hundreds Mourn At Kennedy Funeral

Family, friends and figures from across the political spectrum have gathered in a Highland village to mourn the loss of Charles Kennedy, a politician praised for his humility and remembered for his ties to his humble roots.

Hundreds of people attended a funeral mass for the former Liberal Democrat leader at the St John the Evangelist church in Caol, Fort William, in the Highlands.

The father of one died suddenly at his home on June 1 at the age of 55.

His friend of 40 years Brian McBride described him as "a hugely sensitive man, with no ego at all'' who always put others first, and was dedicated to public service.

Delivering a eulogy, he spoke of how he had known the former MP was special from their very first meeting.

He told those gathered in the packed church and those seated in the sunshine outside that he believed only Winston Churchill and John Smith have been so universally mourned.

Preaching the homily, parish priest Father Roddy McAuley said Mr Kennedy was a "much-loved and respected parishioner'' who will be "sorely missed''.

His ex-wife Sarah Kennedy, 10-year-old son Donald, partner Carole MacDonald and family members were joined by hundreds of local people, as well as figures from across the political parties, including Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown.

The service was a chance to remember Mr Kennedy with respect, fondness and humour.

During his eulogy, Mr McBride recalled how Mr Kennedy had often been asked to substitute for a goalpost during childhood football matches, but what he lacked in sporting prowess, he made up for in his renowned debating skills.

Mr McBride said: "He had a huge public service ethos, as an MP, party leader, a university rector, he wasn't doing these things for the money - he was here to serve.

"Everything he did, every challenge he faced, was not about him, it always started with what it would mean for other people.

"A hugely sensitive man in private, no ego at all, and never putting himself first, proud of his roots, his family, his friends, there was never a second side to him.

"I doubt I will ever see his like again - one of the few public people who walked this earth and didn't really have a single enemy.''

He added: "The Daily Record in their tribute referred to Charles as one of us, and to everyone in this parish, this town, this constituency, Glasgow, Scotland and throughout the UK, I think that's exactly what you were Charles, one of us.

"Charles you take a special place in the hearts of family and friends as well as people all across the country, we shall always remember you.''

Father McAuley told the congregation: "In this church, Charles was one of the 'backbenchers'. He didn't always sit in the same pew but he always sat at the back of the church.''

Fr McAuley also spoke of the family's long-standing links with the church, and of the former MP's love of music.

"Charles loved music and he famously quoted: 'I couldn't imagine a day without music. It relaxes and stimulates me in equal measure, and I hate the sound of silence - the concept I mean, not the track by Simon and Garfunkel'.''

He went on: ``There have been beautiful tributes paid to Charles especially over the past week or so. Something we might add is the importance of Charles's faith to him.

"He was a much-loved and respected parishioner of St John's and he will be sorely missed.''

Afterwards, Sir Menzies, who succeeded Mr Kennedy as Liberal Democrat leader, said the former MP was able to connect with people, and was "as at ease canvassing in a street like this as he was taking George W Bush to task'' over the Iraq war.

"It's often said about people, especially when they pass over, that they were the kind of person who would speak to everyone. But in Charles Kennedy's case, that was undoubtedly true.''

He said he would remember Mr Kennedy as a "man of wit, humour and fun but a man who knew when it was time to be serious''.

Following the service, which lasted more than an hour, a lone piper accompanied the hearse and coffin from the church, which sits in the shadow of Ben Nevis.

Hundreds of people, including children from St Columba's RC Primary school gathered outside as the funeral cortege began its final journey for the private burial at Clunes, Achnacarry.

The crowd broke into applause as the hearse was driven past in a final tribute to the hugely popular former MP.

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