GALLERY: Tributes flow for David Hamilton

At his big send-off David Hamilton drew all the suits expected of a trade unionist, loyal Laborite and former mayor.

But it wasn't all pomp and ceremony.

At yesterday's service they remembered all that bubbled away behind Mr Hamilton's official life; rollicking all-night singalongs, acts of grandfatherly devotion and - fondly recalled - the larger-than-life Scotsman discovered collapsed, drunk and laughing uncontrollably on the floor of the family home.

Mr Hamilton died on Saturday after calling quits on treatment for leukaemia. He was 67.

About 400 people attended his funeral service at the Hansen and Cole grounds at Kembla Grange.

A 12-piece band, complete with six sets of bagpipes, played Going Home as his family took their seats near the casket topped with roses and a flag paying homage to the homeland where he was raised as one of nine children.

Anita Baltovska, a member of Mr Hamilton's media and communications team in 2004, when he was Shellharbour mayor, remembered how he would call the staff "his hens" and made it an early hallmark of his mayoralty to personally deliver flowers to couples in the city celebrating milestone anniversaries.

His thick Scottish accent wasn't so much a challenge, Ms Baltovska said, but a gauge.

"We knew how cranky he was by the strength and colour of that accent. He'd finish a sentence and I'd say, 'you'll need to give me those words again - I only caught the ones starting with F'."

He got a bit fiery too when they suggested a makeover - cool-hued shirts perhaps, suited to his ruddy complexion.

"The next day he proudly marched into my office wearing a bright pink shirt and an even louder tie. With a smile from ear to ear he exclaimed - is this cool enough for ya darlin'? We quickly learnt the mayor was going to do things his way."

He loved a singalong.

Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba remembered "singing into the early hours of the morning" with Mr Hamilton, his wife Moira and Member for Wollongong Noreen Hay in Sydney after an ALP national conference.

That was before one of the toughest times of his life, when Shellharbour council was sacked in 2008 following a three-week inquiry. Mr Hamilton bore intense pressure and personal attacks afterwards, Cr Saliba said.

"David never made decisions because they were popular; he did so because he believed it was right," she said.

"He was working with a group of councillors who were not prepared to compromise or negotiate ... ultimately the council was dismissed.

"It broke David's heart that democracy had been denied to the people of Shellharbour," Cr Saliba said.

They played I Am Sailing and Hey Jude for a slide show of photos: Mr Hamilton in a black curly wig; in a tourist's snap with a south-east Asian ladyboy; in his kilt; at the microphone - singing again; sandwiched by his four grandchildren - many of the pictures with a "wee dram" in hand.

Mourners dropped rose petals onto his casket yesterday and met afterwards at Oak Flats Bowling Club.

Family - Moira, daughters Yvonne and Louise, son Scott and their partners - led the procession out of the building, and then the pipes started up again.

They played Amazing Grace, Flower of Scotland and Scotland the Brave.

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