Dawn French pays tearful tribute to Vicar of Dibley's Alice Tinker

Watch: The Vicar of Dibley’s emotional tribute to Alice Tinker

Dawn French paid a tearful tribute to The Vicar of Dibley’s Alice Tinker, saying those who have died will always be ‘alive in our memories’.

Emma Chambers – who starred as verger Alice in the hit BBC sitcom – tragically died aged 53 from a sudden heart attack in 2018, and comedy vicar Geraldine Granger put laughter aside to remember her character as the latest lockdown Christmas special aired on Monday night.

French, in character as Geraldine, became emotional as she revealed: “Okay friends, dear friends, this is going to be a weird one, as it's about love, and laughter and loss.

"Because Dibley is such full of life but everywhere I go now, if I'm standing in my kitchen, if I go into the vestry, it's always little Alice Tinker I see. And she died, three years ago this week."

(Emma and Dawn appearing in The Vicar of Dibley. (BBC)
Emma Chambers and Dawn French in the original Vicar of Dibley, which ended in 1998. (BBC)

She went on: "Who is the person I've most loved in my life? Well I'm very fond of my handsome husband, but in the end it's got to be her. My own darling dumb blonde.

Read more: 'Vicar of Dibley' lockdown special divides opinion with tribute to departed stars

"She had one husband, six children and three brain cells. But so much love in her heart she could defrost a frozen pizza on a winter's day. She wasn't the brightest bulb in the box but when we lost her, all our lights went out."

The vicar revealed the character of Alice had died of cancer.

James Fleet and Dawn French are bringing back their 'Vicar of Dibley' characters. (BBC/Tiger Aspect Productions Ltd/Des Willie)
James Fleet and Dawn French have returned in a series of Vicar of Dibley lockdown specials. (BBC)

Geraldine added tearfully: "I believe in eternal life in heaven but I also believe in eternal life on earth, because those who die are eternally here, alive in our memories and in who we are."

"Because of… because of how they changed us.

"So message for today, love the ones you're with especially today in these hardest of times and God bless you all."

Read more: Dawn French filmed eulogy for Emma Chambers in Vicar Of Dibley Christmas special

The sensitive tribute to Chambers’ Alice Tinker was in contrast to how late stars of the sitcom John Bluthal and Roger Lloyd-Pack’s characters were remembered in the first lockdown special.

Bluthal, who died in November 2018 at the age of 89, played Frank Pickle, who Geraldine shouted at off camera when he interrupted her sermon.

FILE - In this file photo dated April 27, 1999, British actress Emma Chambers on the des carpet in London.   The actress known for her roles in TV series "The Vicar of Dibley" and the movie "Notting Hill", Chambers has died of natural causes at the age of 53, according to an announcement from her agent John Grant, Saturday Feb. 24, 2018. (Peter Jordan/PA FILE via AP)
Emma Chambers died suddenly at the age of 53 in 2018. (AP)

The vicar also read out a crude letter from farmer Owen Newitt, played by Lloyd-Pack, who died at the age of 69 in 2014.

The Vicar of Dibley ran for two seasons between 1994 and 1998, and produced 10 special episodes as well as six Comic Relief offerings.

Watch: Dawn French talks about filming her emotional tribute