CLOWNING around was the order of service at a less than orthodox funeral of a “fun loving” North Finchley woman today.

Dozens of friends gathered at St Marylebone Crematorium, in East Finchley, to pay their last respects to Kay Hutchings, who died of a heart attack on May 4.

But in the spirit of her “live life to the full” nature, the 93-year-old accomplished amateur actress had always requested to friends that a clown and tumbler be at her funeral to bring a smile to the face of mourners.

And true to her wish, in part, a clown was hired to greet people as they arrived for the service this morning.

Stephen Grindle, aka Dingle Fingle the clown, fumbled about in true circus fashion to the bemusement but general joy of the visitors, many of whom recognised it as a sign of Kay's own exuberant touch on her funeral day.

Close friend of almost 40 years, Brian Moran, arranged the “entertainment”, and said after the service: “She always wanted the day to be happy and fun. She was a bundle of fun herself really.

“She was a great character, always full of fun. She always said to us that she wanted a clown at her funeral.

“He had never done a funeral before, but when he went in to the crematorium, he went up and dusted the coffin. He was great, it was absolutely perfect.”

Kay, who lived in St Michaels Close, worked for much of her life at the BBC as a secretary and archivist, but friends said her passion was acting.

She performed with many acting groups across north London and was still taking to the stage at the age of 91.

A lover of Shakespeare and musicals, Kay, who never married, also had a love of motorbikes and was even keen to get on the back of a Harley Davidson in her mid-80s.

Gill Tracy, who knew Kay for more than 34 years, said: “She was a game old bird, even in her 80s and 90s.

“No one wanted to feel sad today. She would have wanted today to be a celebration of her life rather than people being dreary over her death.

“She never had a bad word to say about about anyone. She was a lovely lady who enjoyed life right up to the end and lived life to the full.”

Mr Grindle said after 25 years as a professional clown, he was “honoured” to take up the offer for his début funeral performance.

He said: “The reaction was a cross between amazement and elation.

“When someone asks for me to be there for the last moments of someone's time on earth, it is like someone asking from above. I was respectfully honoured to take up the offer.

“A clown should be able to cope with any situation they are confronted with. I just have to immerse myself in the situation and trust myself not to over step the mark.”