Bill Kenwright CBE Remembered At Emotional Cathedral Service

Hundreds gathered at Liverpool Cathedral on Monday afternoon to remember the wonderful life of Everton's late Chairman, Bill Kenwright CBE, who passed away, aged 78, in October.

A host of star names from across the football and theatre world were in attendance to honour the Club's longest-serving Chairman in more than a century, and fine servant to entertainment.

Everton's players and staff - from across all departments - were present, including managers Sean Dyche and Brian Sorensen and captains Seamus Coleman and Megan Finnigan.

A large gathering of former Blues were in attendance including Tim Cahill, Duncan Ferguson, Phil Jagielka, Peter Reid, Graeme Sharp, Adrian Heath, Dave Watson, David Unsworth, Joe Royle, Lee Carsley, Kevin Campbell, Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman, Victor Anichebe and ex-boss Frank Lampard, as well as Ambassadors Ian Snodin and Graham Stuart.

Mr Kenwright's huge respect across the city was also highlighted by the presence of Liverpool FC greats Sir Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, Phil Thompson and John Aldridge.

The event began with a poignant version of Z-Cars played on Liverpool Cathedral's famous organ.

Coleman, Everton Giant Reid, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and Margaret Aspinall were among those to give readings, while there were musical performances from former Spice Girl Mel C, Isaac Lancel, Wet Wet Wet singer and theatre star Marti Pellow, and the Everton Spirit Choir.

The late Chairman's life partner Jenny Seagrove also paid a touching tribute, before his daughter Lucy Kenwright read a poem.

Coleman, who joined Everton in 2009 when Mr Kenwright was Chairman, said: "What a special man our Chairman was. I am deeply saddened at his passing. I signed for Everton 15 years ago, and I am truly grateful for the Chairman's support and guidance along the way.

"Everton Football Club was his life. The Chairman's love for the Football Club was something remarkable and he helped me understand what Everton Football Club meant to people.

"He wasn't just our Chairman, he was our greatest supporter. He cared for the players and their families and he was always at the end of the phone through the good times and the bad times.

"He was a passionate and inspirational man.

"The Chairman had a heart of gold and genuinely cared about people. You only had to hear him speak at the Hillsborough events at both Anfield and Goodison Park to know that. He had a special way with words and with people.

"The Chairman was a remarkable man who touched so many lives, and I will miss him dearly. So will everyone at Everton Football Club."

As Mr Kenwright's life partner Jenny Seagrove walked up to give her speech, Z-Cars played from a mobile phone, and she joked: "I can hear Z-Cars... that's Bill!"

In a touching tribute, she added: "I want to say my Bill but he wasn't my Bill - he was our Bill. He was a man, who, as I think everyone has said, never left, never forgot where he came from.

"Of all the people in my life I've ever met, he was the one person who really, really defined the word love. He loved me, he loved our dogs, he loved our home, my word did he love his family... He loved his friends, he loved the people he worked with who became his extended family and, oh, he loved his Club. The royal blue, the Toffees.

"So, when I was thinking about what I might say here, it was about love."

An emotional 75-minute service concluded with audio from one of Mr Kenwright's past interviews, with attendees hearing, "So, from the bottom of my rock and roll heart, for the last time... Good night and God bless".

Ex-midfielder Peter Reid
, who won two league titles, the FA Cup and Cup Winners' Cup during a glorious spell at Everton said: "Bill Kenwright - from the Boys' Pen at Goodison Park to the Boardroom at Everton. What a fitting tribute it would be if we could win a trophy for him. No pressure, Dychey, no pressure, lad!

“A great fella. At the bottom line, a great fella. A warm human being, but through his illness, what a fighter. That shows the character. Fantastic.

“The biggest thing about Bill Kenwright, he loved Everton Football Club. Loved it. Loved this city, too. There’s so many Liverpool players and supporters - that’s what’s great about our city. That’s why we love it and that’s what Bill loved.

“True Blue, love ya. Take care.”

There was an uplifting ending to proceedings as the Cathedral's organ gave a rendition of Spirit of the Blues.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester and lifelong Evertonian, said: "The essence of Bill was an incredible care for people… he gave his all to help people be the best they could be, more interested in their success than his own.

“He would do more for you if he knew you really needed it. The legacy of Bill Kenwright is countless acts of unseen generosity that helped thousands of lives.

“There was no hate in him, just love in every bone of his body. For me, his finest hour came in front of the Kop on the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. There was the Chairman of my football club, giving a speech so full of truth and humanity - and I truly could not have been prouder of him when I heard him speak that day.

"Nobody was a bigger blue than Bill. Nobody had a bigger heart than Bill, a true son of this city in every way. You always gave us your best. You left it all out on life’s pitch, and for that we are all so much richer.”

Margaret Aspinall, former chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, whose son James was one of the 97 Liverpool fans who tragically died in the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989, said: "No words can ever, ever be enough for the man Bill Kenwright was. No words. So, on behalf of Liverpool Football Club and the Hillsborough families, I send Jenny, Lucy, his family, his friends, all our condolences.

“The other day I was asked had I ever met Bill Kenwright. My goodness, yes. I’d met Bill quite a few times. ‘How was he, Margaret? How did you find him as a man?’ How did I find him as a man? I found him loyal, loving, generous. I found him absolutely wonderful.

“How generous he was to the Hillsborough families. That speech - it was iconic. It was a wonderful, wonderful speech. It was genuine; it was from the heart.

“I know where Bill is now. He’s looking down because Everton are coming good now. They’re coming into their own. I think with the help of that guy above now, you will do even better.

“So, on behalf of all the Hillsborough families, and indeed on behalf of our city, we’re all going to miss Bill tremendously. I for one will miss him a great deal. I have some lovely texts from him that I’m going to keep and I’m going to treasure forever.

“I’d like you all to know that Bill Kenwright will never ever walk alone.”

Born in Wavertree on 4 September 1945, Bill was a lifelong Everton fan and grew up idolising Everton’s very own Cannonball Kid, the prolific and fearless striker, Dave Hickson.

He became a Board member on 23 October 1989, then, in the autumn of 1999, he was asked to answer a club crisis. His True Blue Holdings consortium succeeded Peter Johnson’s regime, the paperwork was completed on Boxing Day 1999 and the new boardroom celebrated with a 5-0 victory over a Sunderland side then lying third in the table.

Initially vice-chairman, after five years working alongside his friend Sir Philip Carter, Bill became chairman in June 2004. 

In the 19 years of his chairmanship, he steered the Club calmly and sure-footedly through a period of immense upheaval.

He was the driving force behind the move towards a new stadium, a switch to a new training camp, the growth of the most successful community scheme in the country and 12 top eight finishes.