SINGER Vince Hill has paid an emotional tribute to his “little star” son at a memorial service in Henley.
Athol Hill died in his sleep on January 28, aged 42.
More than 200 people gathered to pay their respects at the humanist service at Henley town hall on Thursday last week.
Mr Hill jnr was a keen musician and drummer and his coffin was adorned with pictures of drums.
His 79-year-old father, who lives in Shiplake, told the mourners: “I’m going to take a deep breath and see if I can get through this.
“When Athol was born he was a lovely, beautiful little child and he grew up to be a good-looking bloke.”
Mr Hill said that when he looked at photogaphs of his son aged two or three he resembled three-year-old Felix, Athol’s own son with his partner Julie Bishop.
“When children get past that age they start on the long, hard road to adulthood,” he said. “Somewhere along that road Athol lost his way.
“He went down a wrong turning and was lost for a very long time.”
The singer quoted a line from the song Lost In The Stars, which reads: Before Lord God made the sea and the land, He held all the stars in the palm of his hand And they ran through his fingers like grains of sand And one little star fell alone.”
Mr Hill said: “Athol was that little star that fell alone and had got lost but he did find his way out with a lot of help. Everything was going so well for him and he was doing so well.
“He went to sleep and didn’t wake up — what a great way to go. It’s the way we all want to go really.
“Wherever you are, all I can say to you is fly to that better place, wherever it is.
“Get there and bang your drums. Play with the biggest, best rock band in the sky until we meet again, my son.” Mr Hill died while visiting the home of his former partner Liz Green and their 15-year-old daughter Niam in Badgemore Lane, Henley.
He stayed overnight but when Ms Green tried to wake him the next day he did not respond.
Laura Davison who is Athol Hill’s cousin, read out the poem Memories In The Heart, which had been chosen by Niam.
Former bandmate and childhood friend Mike Prior spoke about his memories of Mr Hill and his “wicked”sense of humour.
He recalled one occasion when Mr Hill, fed up with a friend called James taking sips from his drink, filled an empty can up with cigarette butts and ash.
Mr Prior said: “Right on cue, James grabbed it and took a big gulp before realising and heaving his guts out.
“The Young Ones and the Inbetweeners had nothing on us in those days.”
He also told how Mr Hill joined the Hare Krishna movement despite only visiting them because he had heard they were offering a free lunch.
Mr Prior said: “It’s quite an honour to share some of my memories of Athol.
“He had a great sense of humour and was great fun to be with. He had no best friend — we were all equal to him.
“He was a brilliant drummer and we wanted him in our band even though he was only 13 or 14 at the time. Wherever we played, people were blown away by Athol.
“He was a man with whom I shared a drink, a smoke, laughs and a few tears. It’s an honour to once again share the stage with him.”
Mr Hill’s coffin left the room to the song Beat Of The Drum by Morcheeba.
Humanist Claire Grove, who took the service, said: “Despite the sad and tragic reason we are here today, those closest to Athol wish us to celebrate the happy, talented, loving and often cheeky person he was.
“I think he was perhaps one of the only people who could wrap [his mother] Annie round his little finger.
“He was loved by everyone he came into contact with, as the turnout here today pays tribute to.
“He showed love and commitment to his parents, partner Jules and children Felix and Niam and had the ability to treat everyone he met on an even standing.”
Mr Hill’s coffin was supposed to enter the room to the sound of Orion by Metallica, but the sound system didn’t work.
Mrs Grove said: “It seems Athol didn’t want us to play that song.”
The service was followed by a private family funeral at Reading Crematorium.
Mr Hill’s family have named a star in the constellation Orion Athol in his honour.
Mr Hill’s death is not being treated as suspicious. An inquest has been opened and adjourned.