Cilla Black (27th May 1943 to 1st August 2015)

 

I watched the three-part Cilla television drama in 2014 never thinking she’d be dead within the year. She was a piece of television furniture for most of my life and I thought with her wealth and the easier life it had given her would have given her many more years. On a recent trip to Liverpool to grave-hunt I called at St Mary's Church in Woolton where Cilla had married and where the funeral service was held. It was Sunday morning and a congregation was in full song. Their voices disappeared as I walked up the cemetery path at the rear of the church to the corner where The Quarrymen (John Lennon’s group which became the Beatles) did their first concert. I had a tramp around the graves at the front of the church (passing the main door which emitted voices in full song) and ran my fingers across the Eleanor Rigby grave. From the cemetery you can see the hall where John and Paul first met. Small world.

 

Onward to Allerton cemetery to look for the grave of a soldier awarded the Victoria Cross. The cemetery is so sprawling you can drive your car through it but I knew Cilla was buried in the smaller Roman Catholic section. Over the years I found the headstones of Catholics to be shiny, shapely and adorned with objects: Mother Mary statuettes, rosaries, ribbons, photographs of the dead and crucifixes abound. Some headstones are as broad as cars and the gypsies graves must have needed a mortgage to build.

 

There was no use looking for grave - the first person I spoke to would know where she was. Spot on: a gasping old man was easing himself into his car. He pointed to a tree which near to Cilla’s grave. “No head stone on it yet,” he said, “but it’s had scores of visitors - more than my wife has and she’s bin ‘ere 14 years.” Recent rains made the grave look sorry for itself. Worn grass told of many visitors. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Priscilla but she’s buried here near her mum and dad. I’m sure it must have been an unusual name in Merseyside at the time of the World War II when she was born. So here’s Priscilla Maria Veronica White OBE who worked in the cloak room at The Cavern Club and did a bit of singing in the clubs. Blimey, I can remember one of her albums and some of her cassettes stacked by the side of the heavy wood radiogram we had a home.

 

She might have died in obscurity if it wasn’t for Liverpool promoter Sam Leach who saw something in this plucky feisty friendly waitress who worked at the Zodiac coffee lounge. He booked her first gig at the Casanova Club on London Road where she appeared as "Swinging Cilla". She was an occasional singer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes. She was Cilla White at the time but an article in the local music newspaper Mersey Beat called her Cilla Black. She adopted this name.

 

She started her singing career aged twenty and had two number ones "Anyone Who Had a Heart" and "You're My World." Before 30 she was a millionaire having had eleven songs in the British charts.

 

I can remember being in Liverpool when I heard she’d died. I’d been in The Cavern Club for a drink, seen a friend off at Lime Street train station and got in the car to drive home when I heard the new on the radio. The post-mortem results suggested she’d fallen backwards on the terrace at her villa, hit her head on the wall, died of a stroke and wasn’t found for four hours. She was 72 but it doesn’t sound like she’d wanted to live for long anyway. She’d said she didn’t want to suffer like her mum and wanted to die at 75. Her beloved bobby had died year before, her eyes and ears were failing her and she’d suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for years.

 

 

 

The view up Church Street on the day of the funeral (and a Sunday morning in November 2015)…

 

 

 

 

The funeral service at St Mary’s Church, Woolton where Cilla was married…

 

At the rear of the church where The Quarrymen did their first gig at the church fete. The asterisk shows the same bushes.

 

 

At Allerton cemetery…

 

She’s buried near here parents at Allerton Cemetery…

 

 

Cilla’s grave in January 2016…

 

 

Cilla is buried quite close to her parents…

 

She gets lots of visitors. I was sat in my car for ten minutes and two lots of people visited…

 

 

Visiting again in November 2018…