St James Church in Devizes was packed on Monday for the funeral of the singing and dancing dynamo who became a local legend after teaching grown men how to dress up in frilly knickers and cheer lead for special needs charities.

Liz Smith, who died last month aged 73, was a co-founder of The Major Wrecks, the popular troupe of male majorettes who danced at carnivals all over the Westcountry.

“It was Liz’s piece de resistance, The Major Wrecks fired her imagination,” her friend Margaret Stanley said in her eulogy of the big-hearted singer and choreographer.

“Liz agreed that if it was to be done it was to be done properly, and so with firemen, postmen, teachers, policemen, office workers and labourers who were all related to or a friend of a child with special needs, the weekly practices began, performing with precision under Liz’s strict eye. Her varied routines became popular wherever they went with their frilly knickers and tights.”

The Major Wrecks became so popular that they performed before crowds of 21,000 at the Birmingham International Tattoo and, after 25 years as the highlight of carnivals locally and across the West Country, they raised more than £100,000 for the charities which Liz helped to establish and run, including the Devizes Handicapped Children’s Group and the Opportunity Group.

“She was born with music in her heart and soul, with pitch-perfect hearing and singing voice,” said Margaret.

“From the age of 11 we started a life-long friendship and I observed the pleasure her exquisite voice gave as she carried off cups, trophies and certificates year after year in the Wiltshire and Somerset Eisteddfods and music festivals.

“Her dancing was always in perfect beat and rhythm, whether it was Scottish or country or jive.”

Later, after marrying Philip Smith and raising three children, they discovered that one of the children had special needs and the dynamo in Liz came out.

“Great life changes within the family happened because of those needs,” said Margaret, “this involved the family becoming a part of a group of parents fighting for their children’s rights to learn through play and through correct schooling; the parents were helping to educate those in the statutory bodies, of education, health and social care.”

“An adventure playground was built and there were weekly activities such as play schemes, youth clubs, Saturday clubs, seaside trips, outings, swimming and music therapy, picnics and games in Savernake Forest. Daily life was learning fun through play for the children,” said Margaret.

“It was all about giving the children more opportunities and she ran gentle gymnastics, music and movement, keep fit, drama and dance.”

She added: “Liz brought a celebration of music, dance, drama, verse and colour into so many people’s lives. She shared the best of friendships with many, taking us all on her magical musical journey of life, a life well-spent to its absolute fullness.”