Mourners turned out in their hundreds yesterday for the funeral service of popular Whitehaven binman Stuart Hughes.

St Peter's Church, Kells, was a sea of red as relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbours wore the colours of Stuart's adored team Liverpool FC to pay their respects.

In a special tribute some of his former colleagues lined the road to the Crematorium with 16 refuse wagons as a guard of honour for the funeral cortege.

Reverend Allen Banks delivered the service to a packed out gathering and described Stuart's sudden death at the age of 57 as coming like a 'bolt out of the blue'.

He said how Stuart was immensely proud of all his family and friends and how he had a great sense of humour and was the man who always had the biggest smile in the room. Appropriately to match his great humour he entered the church to Bring Me Sunshine by Morecambe and Wise.

There were tales of practical jokes with his cousin, Guy Clifford - as the Liverpool/Manchester United rivalry came to the fore. One of Stuart's intended practical jokes will still go ahead as he planned - with a family member making sure Guy's garden shed is painted in the Liverpool colours, as retribution for Guy recently double padlocking Stuart's garden gate shut.

Guy said in a tribute: "He was a “very happy man” who always had a positive outlook on life. We have had hundreds of people contacting us about the funeral. I lived across the road from him and we always kept in touch.

“He liked to socialise and loved his family. He loved all the kids and he didn’t miss Christmas or birthdays. He was a massive Liverpool fan, and I mean massive. He was a season ticket holder and very rarely missed a game.”

Rev Banks told of Stuart's battle with cancer when he was 50, and how he had been given the all clear and was not in ill health at the time of his death.

At the end of the service Stuart left St Peter's to the emotive sound of You'll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and The Pacemakers - the adopted Liverpool FC anthem.

He had worked as a binman for 25 years and the flag at Copeland Borough Council's headquarters, was at half-mast for the day in respect.

Copeland’s community services manager, Janice Carrol, said: “I have known Stuart since our school days. He has always been one of those bubbly, smiley people who says hello to everyone. He was also a valued team member and a real hard worker. Over the years he worked across all our waste services. Stuart will be very sadly missed by all his colleagues here at the council.”

Donations collected in memory of Stuart will go to MacMillan Cancer Support.