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GURKHA GODDESS; Hero's welcome in Nepal for actress.

Byline: Lauren Turner

GURKHAS' saviour Joanna Lumley was yesterday given a hero's welcome in Nepal.

The actress, who was the face of the campaign to allow British Army Gurkhas to settle in the country they fought for, was mobbed by hundreds of the soldiers and their families as she arrived.

Joanna - dubbed the Gurkhas' Goddess - was draped in garlands and colourful scarves and given bouquets of flowers as she made her way through Kathmandu airport.

People thronged the exit waving banners praising the actress. One sign read: "Ayo goddess Joanna" - "Here comes goddess Joanna".

To the delight of the crowd, some of whom had queued for hours to catch a glimpse of the star, Joanna issued the traditional Gurkha war cry.

Joanna, whose late father was an officer in the Gurkha regiment, told the noisy crowd: "My friends of Nepal, I am your family coming to Nepal for the first time. I want to thank you so much. I want to say in the time-honoured cry, 'Ayo Gurkhali!'" The Government finally relented in May when they said all Gurkha veterans with four years' service would be allowed to move to the UK.

Speaking before her departure from Heathrow airport, Joanna said: "It's just incredible. I feel so humbled by the fact I'm going to meet so many ex-Gurkhas and their families and see where they are and how they live.

"Just to be in that country is such a privilege. I don't think it can be anything other than wonderful."

Joanna travelled with Gurkha Justice campaigner Peter Carroll who enlisted her help in the campaign in 2005.

They will meet president Dr Ram Baran Yadav and prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal this morning before addressing a meeting at Kathmandu City Hall. They'll then lay a wreath at a war memorial.

Over the next five days, Joanna will meet Gurkhas and their families across Nepal.


ABSOLUTELY FAB: Joanna and campaigner Peter Carroll are greeted at the airport by soldier's banner, right
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 27, 2009
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