Holmes, the 'cheeky little whitey', farewelled

Last updated 14:32 08/02/2013
Fairfax NZ

Sir Paul Holmes is farewelled by hundreds gathered to remember the veteran broadcaster.

Hundreds farewell Sir Paul Holmes
Grahame Cox Zoom
Millie Elder-Holmes, right, and Lady Deborah, centre.

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Clever, charming, courageous, a bit mad and a "cheeky little whitey" - that was Sir Paul Holmes, his funeral has been told.

The veteran broadcaster died, aged 62, last Friday, surrounded by his family at his Hawke's Bay home after battling cancer and heart problems.

He was farewelled today by close to a thousand people, including fellow broadcasters, sports stars, politicians and his family, at Auckland's Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Parnell.

John Hawkesby, friend and fellow broadcaster, said 62 was way too young to die.

He said Holmes was no saint, not even close, and he would not have wished to be canonised.

He chanced his arm and dared to dream.

Holmes had written a column on Hawkesby's career demise, enraging him. He later apologised on stage at an event.

"I got emotional, we hugged" said Hawkesby, who said he realised he was in the presence of a "big, kind man".

From there they became great friends.

He spoke of attending a barbecue with Holmes and having to go home to get more wine. Holmes chose the most expensive bottle.

"Paul, never known for his subtlety said: 'Well I'd like to try it'," Hawkesby recounted to laughter.

He then told Hawkesby they weren't going to "waste it on the punters over there, we'll knock it off", Hawkesby said.

He was half expecting Holmes to throw open the coffin and say: "See, I can do it. I told you. Twice as long as the other guy."

He closed, saying goodbye to a "clever, charming, courageous, cheeky little whitey".

His daughter Millie broke down as she read a piece quoting her father.

"Love always wins, it might take longer than evil or hatred but love always wins," she said tearfully.

"Find out who you are and know who you are, and know your strengths and weaknesses.

"Be brave even if you are frightened.

"And don't worry if you are different from everyone else, we're all different."

One of Holmes' oldest friends, Peter Beavan, painted a picture of Holmes standing at the "pearly gates" with "microphone in hand, waiting for the really big interview".

He told a story about going out on the town with Holmes one night in Wellington, when they bumped into All Black Jerry Collins in a bar.

He said he turned around to see Holmes and Collins in an embrace. He was worried.

However, Holmes returned and told him Collins was just saying how his family watched the Holmes Show and his dad had told him: "Son, there is a white man you can trust."

The interlude came only a short time after Holmes' controversial "cheeky darky" comment about then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"Paul was colour blind, and never had a racist bone in his body," Beaven said.

He talked of their times together at school and university, where Holmes took a passionate interest in the stage.

He told of a former German girlfriend sending Holmes a postcard. It was sent to Paul Holmes, New Zealand, wherever you are.

She wrote she had been dreaming of him the night before and had an orgasm: "Thank you."

He said anyone who saw Holmes with his step-daughter Millie in the past months could have no doubt about the strength of his love.

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"A life all too short, go gentle my friend," Beaven said.

Mike Williams, a close friend a former Labour Party president, told mourners Holmes' craft was words - on radio, television and in newspapers.

Williams said Holmes revelled in the English language, particularly older words.

He said he and Holmes were blessed by the girls who they adopted and cared for. He spoke of Holmes' crusade against methamphetamine following Millie's battle with the drug.

Williams joked about Holmes' political ambitions, after he once mooted a tilt at the Auckland mayoralty.

He said Holmes had a "mad streak", and in recognition of that they had left one of the screws on the casket loose.

Williams finished by saying: "Sleep well my dear friend. Grief is the price we pay for love."

Brent Harman, Holmes' friend and former boss at Newstalk ZB and TVNZ, lauded Holmes' ability as a broadcaster and journalist.

He was a true "great" and dominated his field.

Harman said ratings plummeted when Holmes first took the helm of the ZB breakfast show in Auckland, with Bob Harvey saying at the time he was "incoherent" and "impossible".

"A quick piece of advice, fire him," Harman recalled Harvey saying.

But Holmes soon turned out to be a change for the better.

Bill Francis, a friend and colleague, said he never doubted Holmes was the "greatest broadcaster of our time, of all time".

His understanding of history gave him perspective on so many issues, he said.

Holmes would finish a script in a news bulletin and deliver it with the finesse of the theatre, he said.

"He wanted success more than anyone I ever knew," he said. "He also worked harder than anyone I ever knew."

Paralympics New Zealand's Duane Kale described Holmes, who was the organisation's patron for more than 15 years, as a "truly great New Zealander ... one who had an interest in all people".

He said Holmes brought the paralympics into the forefront of Kiwis' minds.

An auction and dinner organised by Holmes helped the New Zealand team make the 1996 Paralympic games.

"At times I felt he was too obsessed and thought he might become a paralympian himself, with the plane crash, helicopter crash and numerous others," he said to laughs.

"Paul changed lives, he inspired many, he changed perceptions.

"Paul we will miss you, we will never forget you. Rest in peace my friend."


Hundreds of people took their seats at Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral by 12.30pm, as requested, for the 1pm start of the funeral, filing past the black hearse outside the cathedral.

Among the guests were rugby star Jonah Lomu, broadcaster Ali Mau, newsreader Bernadine Oliver-Kerby and media commentator Bill Ralston.

Students from Holmes' high school, Karamu High in Hastings, arrived at the funeral in uniform with principal Martin O'Grady.

"He always was really generous with his acknowledgement of our school," O'Grady said.

"He's our first knight, we're really proud."

Year 13 student Kahu Ferris said Holmes, a former prefect, left a legacy to aspire to.

"Some of us want to strive to be like him. It's an honour to come up and see him off," he said.

TV presenter Jason Gunn had kind words for Holmes, who he had written a poem about.

"I was lucky to have known him, on Dancing with the Stars and he other times we shared together.

"He gave me advice in what I shouldn't do on the screen and helped win me contracts.

"There are plenty of knockers out there but he did what he told me, 'you keep doing what you like to do'."


The service concluded with a combination of bagpipes and a haka performed by Karamu High School students.

The casket was carried by Millie and Reuben, along with brother Ken Holmes, Peter Bevan, Mike Williams and Paul Watkinson.

It passed through a guard of honour held by Westpac Rescue Helicopter Trust staff and pilots.

- Auckland Now

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