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TOMB WITH A VIEW; Ollie's wife chooses special grave site so if he ever rose from the dead he could see his favourite pub.

OLIVER Reed, the film world's most formidable drinker, will be laid to rest today within sight of his favourite pub.

His grave is under a magnificent beech tree at the end of a tiny cemetery in Churchtown, Co. Cork, where he had made his home and was much loved.

The site was chosen by his wife Josephine because it offers the best possible view of his favourite watering-hole, O'Brien's Bar.

Village priest Father Pat Twohig joked that if Ollie rose from the dead, he would be able to see the pub.

He said yesterday: "Ollie was larger than life and sometimes twice as noisy, but he will be remembered here as much for his good works as for his escapades."

Ollie will be buried in a specially waterproofed grave - then Churchtown will give the actor a wake of which he would be proud.

Fifty barrels of beer were lined up outside O'Brien's, whose cellar was overflowing with booze.

A huge marquee dominated the grounds of Ollie's Castle McCarthy home, with seating for up to 400 and unlimited supplies of drink.

And Churchtown - population less than 200 - was being spruced up with fresh paint and flowers for an invasion of celebrities and media teams.

John Hurt, Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Jeremy Irons were expected to mourn Reed, 61, who had a heart attack in a Maltese bar nearly a fortnight ago.

Snooker's Alex Higgins - a regular at Castle McCarthy, which has a rhino sculpture on the lawn and a door-knocker in the shape of an erect penis - should also be there.

Yesterday widow Josephine, 35, was being comforted there by Ollie's children from a previous marriage, Mark, 38, and Sarah, 28

She had been Reed's companion since she was 16 and they married five years later.

Josephine declined to talk, but a pal of Ollie's said at O'Brien's: "Ollie would have wanted us to lay on a send-off he would have enjoyed himself. We will do our best."

Among many local causes that Ollie helped was fund-raising for three-year-old Joanne O'Riordan, born without arms or legs.

Her father Joe said: "He gave so much of time and energy to help my daughter. We saw him as a kind and compassionate man with great love for children."

Ollie also helped young local boxers - he was a fairground fighter in his youth - and animal charities.

The funeral service will be at Church of Ireland St James in nearby Mallow, with an ecumenical choir drawn from the area.

The beech tree over Ollie's grave amid the ruins of a 13th century church was his favourite.

Locals recalled how he used to come out of O'Brien's, pint in hand, and sit on the window sill, gazing across at the churchyard.

Jim Sampson said: "He was fascinated by the crows. He would sit and talk about the way in which the birds always came home in the evenings to roost in that tree.

"I am sure he is enjoying the fact that he will rest underneath it."

Ollie's grave has been built with a brick-lined crypt which is totally waterproof. It will be covered with flagstones.

-ACTOR Birdy Sweeney, 68, who played farmer Eamon Byrne in Ballykissangel, was buried at Dungannon, Co Tyrone, yesterday, mourned by fellow stars and 1,000 others. He collapsed earlier this week.
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Author:Oliver, Ted
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 15, 1999
Words:552
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