PADDY Doherty wept as thousands of travellers paid tribute to his nephew today in a huge funeral featuring a fleet of Rolls Royces and horse-and-trap races.
More than 2,000 people arrived at Ashtead, Surrey, to bid farewell to Mikey Connors – who died when a car ploughed into him and his champion horse last month.
Mourners then travelled to Epsom racecourse and blocked off the road with their Range Rovers, waving on local traffic, to hold a horse and trap race before the burial.
The suited travellers raced their traps up and down the road yelling “go on, Mikey Connors” and “this is how we send Mikey off!” as the horses hurtled along the road.
The Mercedes funeral hearse, with 32-year-old Connors’s coffin still inside, raced alongside the traps with youngsters and his mum Mary leaning out the window to shout Mikey’s name.
Golfers on nearby grounds looked on perplexed as the racers warmed up tearing along the road closed by the police at break-neck speed.
The hearse then joined the eight horse-carts as they raced at high speed along the road dotted by police officers.
Big Fat Gypsy Wedding star Paddy Doherty stood in the road shouting ‘oi, oi’ to keep the parade together as the horse-carts were flanked by the white Mercedes.
Meanwhile a small aircraft circled overhead with a giant banner reading “Mikey Connors – Legend – RIP” before the coffin was transferred to a horse-drawn carriage on its way to the cemetery.
His pale-blue coffin was inscribed with the words “our one in a billion” and took centre stage of the emotional tribute with his mum Mary weeping over the casket alongside his young wife Lizzie.
Today, Paddy paid tribute to Mikey – remembering him as a “fighter, singer, dancer”.
Wiping tears from his eyes after the service, Paddy told The Sun Online: “We weren’t allowed to cry at my father’s funeral because that’s what he asked for and the way he was. But my father wasn’t there today and so everyone was crying in there.
“Mikey had everything, he was a fighter, a singer, a dancer, he had the looks, and was a great horseman.
“He wasn’t a five-star bloke – he was a 20-star bloke and everybody loved him.”
He added: “He was like Father Christmas, everyone wanted a piece of him.
“His daughter said in the church ‘I know my daddy will have the best time in heaven because he always had the best of everything.’ And that’s right, it was beautiful.
“But this is nothing yet, we’re going to have a huge celebration later on.”
There were flowers adorning large photos of Mikey and his family – from holidays to Universal Studios to smiling family portraits with Paddy.
Written on one tribute to Mikey was “352 World Record” – possibly relating to horsecart racing – clearly a major part of Mikey’s 30-year-long life.
There was also a small white bungalow of flowers with a black roof and brown trim – written on top was ‘may you get the best bed in heaven’.
A Rolex watch was made of brown flowers – displaying the time of 2.46, with the date ’21’.
The coffin was held on the shoulders of ten smartly dressed men as a young girl and boy – believed to be Mikey’s children, led the procession.
They held a ‘WBC’ boxing belt and a framed photo of Mikey kissing a small child.
A woman followed the coffin with a speaker, which played ‘A Place in the Sun’ by Stevie Wonder, followed by ‘Shotgun’ by George Ezra.
Some of the crowd sang along, while other pumped the air with their hands.
The funeral of dad-of-two Mikey – who had been regarded as a “hero” and “brilliant fighter” by fellow travellers – was under tight police security.
Cops were pictured trying to control the traffic this morning as a fleet of 16 Rolls Royce Phantom cars arrived at St Michaels Church in Ashtead.
The cortege was made up of white Rolls-Royce cars with blue flags on top, which brought traffic to a standstill after driving the mourners to the church.
Mikey’s horse Big T, killed in the same crash which led to the arrest of a man on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, was also commemorated at the ceremony with flowers in his name.
Cops were trying to clear the narrow lanes around the church as curious locals watched on while stood in front of a millionaire’s row of houses.
Chief undertaker Paul Brown, who organised the funeral, said: “I’ve organised quite a few of these funerals but nothing on this scale.
“It’s taken three weeks to plan and people have come from all over the world.
“You can see it’s caused chaos in the town – nobody wants that to happen – but it’s impossible to organise a funeral of this size without impacting the community.”
The travellers are later planning a celebration of Mikey’s life into the early hours of Wednesday morning at a secret five-star hotel within 20 miles of the funeral service.
Tragic Mikey – a lookalike for his famous TV uncle Paddy – was revered as a champion horse trainer who ran a stud farm near to his burial place.
One traveller said: “This is the ultimate tribute and nothing – not even the police – will stop us because Mikey lost his life racing and this is the ultimate honour.”
Last night Paddy – Celeb Big Brother 2011 winner – looked distraught as he led a 500-strong crowd at a pre-funeral.
Reports claim a bare knuckle fight is due to take place after the service to settle a long running feud.
This morning police mounted a huge security operation to prevent any violence as gypsies arrived from across the world for the big send-off.
Police chiefs have called on pubs and local businesses to warn them to close their premises today and shut early last night.
At the funeral mourners were asked to be dressed fit for a summer ball by wearing powder blue outfits – Mikey’s favourite colour.
Women arrived in striking dresses, high heels and traditional costume jewellery – while the men donned shades, smart suits and slicked-back hair.
Travellers come from as far afield as America and Switzerland.
The lavish funeral expected to see more than 2,000 people attend
At the time of his death friends and family took to social media to pay tribute to the dad.
Brother Simey Connors wrote: “I promised you (to) stay strong Mikey.
“It’s getting harder already you don’t understand how much I miss you brother.”
Another friend added: “Such a huge loss and all we can live for is memories and remember the smiles he gave everyone.”
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