Much loved actress laid to rest in Thame -
THE actress, Elizabeth Spriggs, who lived in Thame until her recent death, was buried in St Mary's churchyard this morning.
The service was attended by some of the most illustrious 'in the business', including Jeremy Irons, Robert Hardy, and Peter Vaughan, who all paid tribute to their friend and fellow actor. Family and friends included Elizabeth's daughter, Wendy Spriggs and Jeremy Irons' wife, Sinead Cusack who, Jeremy revealed, was first introduced to him by Elizabeth 30 years ago, James Ellis (Sgt Lynch in Z cars)and Lesley Sharpe (Clocking Off and Dr Who).
A lone piper played 'Amazing Grace' as he led Elizabeth's coffin, adorned with masses of beautiful lillies, along the tree-lined path, through the rear door of the church to its resting place for the service, in front of the altar.
Following the opening prayer, led by the Rev Simon Baynes, and the singing of the first hymn, Morning has broken, Peter Vaughan stood up to pay the first of several moving, funning and poignant tributes to someone who was obviously very much loved as well as admired by all who rubbed shoulders with her.
Peter Vaughan (Harry Grout, in Porridge) described how Elizabeth could play anything "from Shakespeare to Harvey Moon, from Jacobean theatre to 'Heartbeat!" whether it be for TV, the theatre or film, pointing out that she was also a supurb radio actress.
Having worked with her for over 30 years, Peter said: "Elizabeth didn't just act characters, she inhabited them and became them!
"As a person she was warm and generous; she loved people and was completely without side or feelings of superiority. She treated everyone, including film crew as equals and she loved them all. But, if anyone failed to show total committment, Elizabeth was quick to let them know but in a most gracious way.
"She has enriched so many lives," he concluded.
Actor, Robert Hardy (Cornelius Fudge in Harry Potter and Siegfried Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small) spoke of his many acting partnerships with Elizabeth Spriggs, including their part in a drama about the raconteur, Fothergill who ran the Spread Eagle Hotel here in Thame - partnerships which often included, he said, a lot of "laughter, joy, kindness and fun."
Robert Hardy ended his tribute with words from John Masefield's poem:
Death opens unknown doors.
It is most grand to die.
The congregation then sang 'Dance, dance wherever you may be' which was followed by a tribute from Jeremy Irons. He revealed that, although he had never worked with Elizabeth Spriggs, she had castigated him as a young actor, saying, "You could be so good."
"I realised," he said, "that she didn't want second best and cared enough to tell me straight out. As a result, "She is in bits of all of us, and in bits of me," he added. "A lot of Elizabeth's straight talking and passion is within me, because of her influence."
Such eloquence as Jeremy Irons' rendering of "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day.....But thy eternal summer shall not fade," had rarely been heard in St Mary's Church, Thame.
Alan Rickman, who played Severus Snape, in the Harry Potter films, was unable to be at the funeral but a tribute from him was read by David Fielder.
Alan Rickman spoke of the great influence on him of Elizabeth's 'Lady Gay Spanker' during a school trip to see Shakespear.
"She knew where truth lurked," he said, "and knew how to drag it into the sun."
He described her great humanity both on stage and off it, and her "perceptive and twinkling eye." concluding:
"God bless Elizabeth and all who sail with her. She was an inspiration to aspiration - the finest of Shakespear's women."
The Rev Baynes spoke of Elizabeth's great love of creation, of animals, birds and gardens, recalling fondly how, just a few weeks ago she had visited the church's Flower Festival.
She was, he said, obviously a person who 'did you good,' who made you happy and a wonderful friend."
The final hymn, most fittingly therefore, was 'Think of a world without any flowers..'
The final line, in an anonymous piece of prose at the end of the programme for this celebration of the life of Elizabeth Spriggs Manson, reads:
"You can remember her and only that she's gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn
turn your back
Or you can do what she'd want: smile, open your
eyes, love and go on."
Observing the strength of the bond between the friends and family of Elizabeth Spriggs at this, their most vunerable, one felt sure that, because it is what their friend and loved-one would have wanted, they woud indeed:
'smile, open their eyes, love and go on.'