Paul O’Grady given Wirral’s highest honour

The late Paul O’Grady has been given Wirral’s highest honour as politicians paid tribute to the star “who never forgot his roots.”

The legendary entertainer, who was born in Birkenhead, died suddenly on 28 March, prompting a huge outpouring of love and tributes from across the country and beyond.

Former Wirral Council leader Janette Williamson after his death proposed the council give Mr O’Grady, also known for his drag persona Lily Savage, the Freedom of the Borough posthumously.

The move was then unanimously endorsed by Wirral Council’s Regulatory and General Purposes committee before going to a meeting of all councillors earlier today, 10 July. A ceremony with members of Mr O’Grady’s family and invited guests will happen at a later date.

At the full council meeting, councillors paid tribute to the celebrity “who never forgot his roots” and was called a great ambassador for the Wirral.

Former council leader Janette Williamson said she was honoured to have nominated Mr O’Grady for the award calling him “one of our best.” She said it would be “a really deserved award going out tonight to award one of Birkehead’s finest.”

Alongside the tributes to Mr O’Grady, there were also calls for a more fitting tribute to the star. Labour councillor Julie McManus renewed calls for Birkenhead Kennels, a charity that looks after stray dogs, to be moved to a better location.

Councillors had previously called for a new location to be found in 2019 after the current building was deemed to be “at the end of its natural life and is no longer fit for purpose.”

Paul O’Grady was known for his advocacy for animal welfare, particularly dogs, and was an ambassador for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Cllr McManus said a new location would be “a real and lasting legacy for the love of dogs in memory of Paul O’Grady.” The proposal was hailed as a “tremendous idea” by the Conservatives.

In a personal tribute, Cllr Jason Walsh said Paul O’Grady and Lily Savage was a legendary cultural figure that had helped change attitudes as “a working-class gay Irish and English icon.”

He added, “I often think about the fact that many of us stand on the shoulders of giants and Paul was one of those giants. He helped make it possible for gay people like me to have many of the rights some of us could take for granted.”

The Freedom of the Borough is the highest award Wirral Council can give and goes to “persons of distinction who have rendered eminent service to the borough.” Previous recipients of the award have included former MP Baron Frank Field of Birkenhead and the Hillsborough 97.

Since his death, calls have been growing for a permanent tribute to the star such as a statue to be created in Paul’s home town of Birkenhead. A petition of 213,000 people calling for a statue was also presented to councillors by Birkenhead News on behalf of Kieran Gabriel who set up the petition.

Wirral Council said the Freedom of the Borough award is the “first step” in the council’s plans for a “fitting celebration” of the star’s life.  A mural has also recently gone up at  Woodside featuring both Mr O’Grady and Lily Savage against a leopard print background overlooking the Mersey.

Image: Wirral Libraries

Why not follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? You can also send story ideas to

Share this

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter

Facebook comments

Latest news