WHEN Paddy Doherty buried his beloved dad Simon earlier this year, he did it in style.
The funeral, caught on camera for next week’s Gypsy Kids: Our Secret World, is the biggest the Travelling community had ever seen, with thousands of mourners attending – including Simon’s 150 grandchildren.
Simon, dubbed “The King of the Dohertys”, was buried in a specially designed coffin, painted in the colours of the Irish flag and decorated with a crown, a crucifix and Simon’s nickname – “The Blacksmith” – painted on in gold.
The families arrived at the service in Surrey in a cortege of 16 identical Rolls Royces, followed by hundreds more cars and the final leg, in North London, was by horse-drawn carriage.
The elaborate floral arrangements included a car, whisky bottles, champagne, some milk churns and a pint of Guinness, and Irish dancers paid tribute by performing at the church.
But, while he knew that his dad was a “big name” in the Travelling community, even Paddy was surprised by the turnout.
He told the Sun Online: “The one thing you cannot plan for at a Traveller’s funeral is how many people will come – it could be 10, it could be 50.
“I knew all the Dohertys would come but there’s no way we expected the turn out we got. We knew my father was a big name, but we weren’t expecting thousands.
“My father was a very straightforward man, very blunt. But he had a personality anyone could get on with but we all looked up him because what he said was law.
“There wasn’t a bigger name than his name in the Travellers. Everyone went to him when they had troubles and he would calm everything down and sort it out between families and enemies of families. He was a peacemaker.
“At the funeral there was Irish and English, there were thousands and they came from as far as America. He meant a lot to all Travellers.”
After the service, the procession took a detour to Epsom to fulfil the final request of his dad – a keen horse-racer – for a horse and cart race past the famous racecourse.
Although he stopped the traffic for quite some time, the police appeared to have turned a blind eye to the race, which Paddy kept secret until the last minute.
He said: “The way they look at it, they are just happy it all went well. If they had stopped that it would have been a mess.
“But thank God, we got away with it which was fantastic and the first time it was ever done. My dad went to Epsom every year without missing it, and he did a lot of dealing in horseboxes and trailers there.”
Paddy – who is the oldest of Simon’s 22 children – says he was devastated by his father’s death and revealed he and his brothers wore sunglasses at the funeral so nobody would see them cry.
He said: “My heart, it wasn’t just broke. I was a complete write off, a big broken man. “But I remember my dad saying to me a million times, ‘My Patrick, when I die, you never drop a tear and never let any of your brothers drop a tear.
“You laugh and you dance and you have a happy time, with everyone up singing and dancing.’ And he said, ‘I want you to wear glasses, because I don’t want anyone seeing you crying. I want everyone to see the strength of my sons.’
“So I wore glasses and I HATE wearing glasses, but I did what my father wanted me to do.
“We also threw our ties into the casket with him, which is a tradition. It’s a mark of respect – I wore your colour and I’m giving you your collar back.”
The Channel 5 show, which airs on Thursday, also showcases Paddy’s sweet relationship with eight-year-old granddaughter Margaret.
After hearing about the funeral plans, she tells him: “It’s going to be a good day but a sad day.”
She is also seen designing her own floral tribute to her great-granddad and saying: ” I wish I could make granddaddy Paddy feel happier.”
Paddy insisted the little girl had helped him heal after the death of his dad.
He said: “Margaret is like an old woman. If she sees me broke down, with my head in my hands, she’ll come in and kiss my head and say, ‘I love you my Granddaddy’. And I wouldn’t have to tell her what I was upset over. They have a gift, children, and they can sense when you are upset.
“My grandchildren are my world – they keep me in the white light, and I give thanks and praise to God for that.”
Although the funeral was one of the most lavish ever seen, the My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding star and Celebrity Big Brother winner says they have no idea how much it cost.
He said: “I wouldn’t know if it cost £500 or £50,000. We don’t even discuss that with our wives.
“When it comes to our father, everyone has to fire in so much money and anything left over goes to the Old Queen, my mum.
“We don’t get bills for the flowers, the cars, the hotels – we just say ‘How much is that?’ and before we know it we’ve spent a lot of money.”
Despite being the oldest of the clan, the 58-year-old says he won’t inherit the title of “King of the Dohertys” because, “that’s my dad. I’ll never be good enough to be him.”
Irish Traveller Paddy, who has had 11 children with wife Roseanne, although only six survive, is now a great-granddad himself.
While he says it is “everything” to keep the Traveller traditions alive in his family, he believes some things, like dropping out of school and marrying young, should be a thing of the past.
He said: “The traditions are everything to me, because we are dying out slowly.
“But I don’t think young girls should be getting married at 15 or 16, it’s ridiculous. I don’t care who you are – at 16 you are still a child. Don’t forget, you can’t see an adult movie until you’re 18 or get a drink, and yet they want to get married and have babies. I wouldn’t have tell of it.
“I also think every child, no matter who they are, should be going to school and learning to read and write.
“I think every Traveller should go to school get educated and go to college. For me to say that 15 years ago, I’d be a laughing stock.
“My grandchildren can read and write beautiful, but I have to get my granddaughter Margaret to read the paper to me, because I’m not the greatest reader. She can read like an old woman and it’s lovely.”
This week also sees the return of twins Johnny and Abraham – who moved out into their own caravan at 11.
In last week’s Gypsy Kids, the children revealed how they would see it as “shameful” for a boy to do chores.
Gypsy Kids: Our Secret World airs on Channel 5 at 10pm on Thursday.