HUGHIE Green had a string of mistresses and a secret ''love child'' who is now one of the best-known women in British television, according to a lifelong friend speaking at the talent show host's cremation.

Mr Noel Botham, who made his claim while addressing 100 mourners at Golders Green Cemetery, north London, in-cluding the star's children and grandchildren, was later ordered to leave a post-funeral reception by Mr Green's son, Christopher, 49.

Mr Botham told mourners that allegations he had sex with women on his hit show Opportunity Knocks were un-true.

''Hughie was accused of having secret affairs with female contestants but he didn't need to, because he had four very capable mistresses on the go and a couple more on the side,'' he told the congregation.

''He had a daughter, a love child. She is now one of the biggest-known names in British TV today.''

Mr Botham added: ''Hughie knew I was going to give an address at his funeral and he knew I was going to say this and we both laughed about it.

''I don't know if this girl even knows that Hughie is her dad, but he used to see her on the TV or in the newspapers and say, 'that daughter of mine again'.''

Later Mr Christopher Green and his sister Linda Plentl, 53, said they were horrified about what had been said, particularly

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as the revelations were made in front of Mrs Plentl's four daughters, who are aged from 15 to 30.

Mr Green, who travelled from his home in Canada to be with his father before he died, said: ''I'm devastated that something that should have been beautiful and dignified was ruined. My father would never have wanted it this way.''

Mr Green said he had no interest in finding out if the allegation was true, although he conceded ''my father had a lot of girlfriends, that was public knowledge''.

Mrs Plentl, who lives in the south of England, said: ''I was devastated because I was sitting there with my brother, husband and four children when this came out.

''You feel responsibility as a parent not to let your children be exposed to this at their grandfather's funeral.''

Asked if she thought it was true, she said: ''I would imagine it is true. Someone does not get up in a public place like that and make a statement of that sort without proper knowledge.''

Mr Christopher Green and his sister are Hughie Green's children by his only marriage to his childhood sweetheart Clare, who died about two years ago.

The worlds of television, stage and politics mourned the man who created the clapometer to measure audience approval and who was known for his catchphrase: ''I mean that most sincerely, folks.''

Former child star Lena Zavaroni, now 33, from Rothesay, described him as ''a great big granddad''.

She said the entertainer, who lost his battle against cancer aged 77, ''was always joking, always smiling ... I was very lucky to have my big break with him''.

Consumer Minister Nigel Griffiths led the accolades to Mr Green, whose talent show commanded audiences of 25 million during its 22-year run.

''His place in the history of television is secure and his place in the hearts of millions of people also,'' he said.

''This was a man who was an actor, a businessman, a pioneer in radio and TV. This was a man who captured the talent in others. He made many people famous for 15 minutes and put others onwards to stardom for life.''

Mr Griffiths said the compere had been a campaigner for the National Health Service and a ''great patriot''.

His coffin, which was decorated with a huge spray of red carnations and roses, was led into the crematorium by four pallbearers for the 50-minute service.

His ashes will be scattered in two places as requested in his will, to honour his Canadian sweetheart and his Scottish roots. His father was a Scot in the Canadian Army. Hughie Green himself was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force and spent the Second World War flying transport aircraft across the Atlantic.

Half of his ashes will be taken to Mount Royal in Montreal, the other half taken north of the Border.