AROUND 300 people including First Minister Rhodri Morgan, Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy and Islwyn MP Don Touhig said goodbye to the late Leo Abse today at St Gabriel’s Church in Cwmbran.

Yesterday’s service was jointly conducted by Rabbi Dr Sidney Brichto and Rev Michael Phillips.

The arrangements of the service were organised by Mr Abse himself ten years prior to his death.

It began with a rendition of ‘Troyt’s Chant’ sung by the Blaenavon and Pontnewydd Male Voice Choirs, before Rev Phillips welcomed the mourners.

He said: “We are gathered here to celebrate the life of Leo, for he enriched the lives of so many people.

“Leo broke down barriers for people and enabled them with legislation he introduced to be more fully themselves.”

Mr Abse’s daughter, Bathsheba Morabito, gave a reading of ‘Lord, what is man that you have regard for him.’, followed by Rabii Brichto, who gave a reading from Psalm 90.

Torfaen MP Paul Murphy paid an emotional tribute to Mr Abse during the service.

He said: “Leo was a very close friend and I will miss him very much.

“I will miss his stories, advice and wisdom, the whole of the country will feel his loss..

“He was a faithful member of parliament and extremely dedicated to the Eastern Valley.

“Millions of people have had their lives improved due to his social legislation. He was Britain’s top reformer of the century.”

Mr Murphy added the country had benefited greatly from Mr Abse’s decision to never seek any government office so he could remain politically independent and his own man, enabling him to campaign hard for his beliefs.

Close friend, Don Touhig MP, also paid tribute to Mr Abse. He described his loving marriage of 40 years to first wife Marjorie, who passed away in 1995 - and Mr Abse’s relationship with his widow Ania, who he married in 2000.

He said: “Leo and Ania had an extraordinary relationship, which helped him live life to the full.

“When he was ill she looked after him and when he was well they travelled and the lived such a rich life.

“Leo was like a sun that shone bright. Like the sun he gave us warmth helped us grow and mature.

“I see Leo’s death as a new beginning and I look forward to seeing him again.

“He will certainly have stories to tell about the going’s on in heaven and he would want me to tell him about the going’s on of New Labour.”

The funeral concluded with the Blaenavon and Pontnewydd Male Voice Choirs singing the ‘Slaves’ Chorus’ from Nabucco, Verdi.

Mr Abse died peacefully at Charing Cross Hospital in London on August 19, at the age of 91.

He was one of the architects of the 1960s sexual revolution - his bill legalising homosexuality.

Mr Abse became Labour MP for Pontypool in 1958 and then Torfaen MP in 1983, before retiring in 1987.