HUNDREDS packed into St Anne’s Church yesterday to say goodbye to the ‘Mother Teresa of Accrington’.

Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh led the funeral tributes to much-loved nun Dorothy McGregor, who died on May 3 after years of helping the homeless and those in need.

The service was so full with friends and well-wishers that dozens were left standing in the church aisles and spilling out on to Cobham Road.

The saint-like 79-year-old was best known for setting up Abbey Street charity Maundy Relief in 1998, where she would regularly start at 6am and work late into the evening to help the needy.

Coronation Street star Julie, who is a patron of the charity, struggled to contain her emotion while giving a eulogy to the ‘reluctant but natural celebrity’.

She said Dorothy had grown frustrated in her career as a probation worker as ‘red tape and the system’ often prevented her from giving the level of support that people required.

“Dorothy was determined to provide a 24-hour service for people who slipped through the system”, Julie said.

“She gave you time, attention and love unconditionally, often to people who never felt listened to in their lives, let alone loved.

“You can’t do the work she did without possessing the heart of a lioness.”

Father Simon Stamp, who led the service of Requiem Mass, said that Dorothy’s charity work had driven her to exhaustion.

But even her own ill health failed to stop her. He said: “It seems as though the whole of Accrington is packed into this church and it’s a great testament to her that so many have come.”

David Galloway, from Great Harwood, said he met Dorothy about six months ago after his incapacity benefits were cut.

The 45-year-old said following the Mass: “She was helping me with food parcels and I did some volunteer work with her in return.

“She was funny, considerate and had a heart of gold. She thought about everybody and meant a lot for Accrington.”

A tearful 61-year-old man, who asked not to be named, said afterwards: “She would come to see me in prison when she was a probation officer 40 years ago. She was an inspiration to me and just a brilliant woman.

“She put me on the right track and I haven’t been back in jail since.

“To me she was the Mother Teresa of Accrington.”

Ruth Turner, of Bamford Crescent, became friends with Dorothy through her late husband Bill, who was a historian and magistrate.

She said: “She was a lovely woman and always had time for you and made you feel special.”