Denise Robertson: Eamonn Holmes pays tribute at funeral of Sunderland rose

Eamonn Holmes is one of those paying tribute to the late Denise Robertson at her funeral today.

Wednesday, 13th April 2016, 1:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th April 2016, 2:22 pm
Eamonn Holmes and wife Ruth Langsford speak to the media ahead of Denise Robertson's funeral at Sunderland Minster.

Her colleague and friend said some beautiful words today at Sunderland Minster, as hundreds gathered to say goodbye to the 83-year-old.

Here is what he had to say, in full, below.

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You have to pinch yourself, is this really what we think it is! Saying goodbye to Denise.

It was only a few weeks ago that Denise, a healthy looking Denise at that , was on stage at the O2 celebrating This Morning's win at the National Television Awards.

Hours before and in her evening gown she'd gingerly crept down the gangway onto our specially charted boat on the Southbank that was full of high spirits and champagne as we set sail down the Thames to the big event at Greenwich. Denise was one of us, a big part of us and how we hurt today.

Make no mistake the success of This Morning is partly down to this one woman.

Eamonn Holmes and wife Ruth Langsford speak to the media ahead of Denise Robertson's funeral at Sunderland Minster.

She had the unique gift of being a companion to a student, a young mum, a divorced housewife or a struggling pensioner-all could relate to Denise ... if you had a problem, Denise had been there before you.

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Coverage from Denise Robertson's funeral

And she was a television natural.

Latterly dispensing advice in the age of Zoella on the oldest and most original of technologies - the telephone. The phone in on This Morning after 28 years is still the heartbeat of the programme and is of more relevance now than ever before.

Eamonn Holmes and wife Ruth Langsford speak to the media ahead of Denise Robertson's funeral at Sunderland Minster.

Over the past two years Denise's postbag, as she called it, was full of modern Britain's problems and many of them issues she believed politicians had created and should have sorted out and not left to her.

We could have done with Denise every day this week, like Monday when the mum who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer 10 minutes before we went on air called in because she didn't want her ex-husband to benefit from her will when she died, or yesterday a mother who felt so desperate at being overweight she feared she couldn't go on with life.

Denise was on the phone, on the telly, offering advice on subjects just like those 30 years ago when we first met

You think when you leave school or university or college that's you finished with passing tests - until you met Denise Robertson, the matriarch of Studio 8.

Never was there a more shrewd judge of character. She could spot a fake at a hundred paces but once you were in as a graduate of the Robertson Academy of Life then you had a mum, an aunt, a best friend, a shoulder to cry on and a friend for life.

Because Denise was not just Sunderland's own Angel of the North, not just a devoted mum, step mum and wife, not just a companion to millions of viewers.

And here's where it gets selfish ... she was our Denise as well. At work she was someone to turn to when the going was tough or life was getting wobbly. Relationship problems, bereavements, even new dogs which she advised my wife on, Denise was there for us at This Morning.

She was our in house shrink but with a wicked sense of humour and a love of slapstick.

Scores of our staff who have been touched by Denise would like to have been here today but we still have a programme to produce and Denise would understand the show must go on.

Because she was a professional who even in her 80s would get in a car and be driven hundreds of miles through the night to appear on the show when a story broke or a running order change meant we needed Denise's view on an issue. Denise would always rate, she was television gold.

When people say the age of the TV agony aunt has passed consider this ... within half an hour of the news of Denise's death, 17,000 messages of sympathy had been posted on This Morning's Facebook page. Viewers were in tears, every online site had Denise Robertson as their top story.]

Until a few weeks ago she had still been hard at work.

Even from her bed at the Royal Marsden when she knew she had limited time left she was still worried about others.

She wanted to make sure her passion to publicise the scandal of enforced adoptions continued and didn't want to let parents down, from the hospital she passed on documents and research so we could carry on the story.

And that was Denise, the human iceberg. She would spend maybe 10 minutes on telly, processing viewers problems at the same time as a million others watched and listened but it was off air that the real work was done.

In the tiny room she shared with Penny, her great friend and our This Morning counsellor, Denise would spend hours on the phone or answering emails and letters.

It was never publicised but she would go in person to comfort and soothe.

Like when she held the hand of a viewer recently widowed as she scattered the ashes of her husband at his favourite spot.

We don't know how many lives Denise saved with her advice, probably hundreds, but there's no question she was a comfort blanket for millions, a constant and for those suffering dark hours she was a beacon of light.

We're all neurotic in telly that one day we'll get found out, the gig will be over, good while it lasted. There's a saying that the camera never lies. Well for 28 seasons, 28 seasons at ITV, a record in itself, the glass lens never tired of Denise Robertson, it never found her out, because Denise was the real deal.

Sleep in peace our dear friend, your work is over, for the last time Denise, "that's a wrap".