By Stephen M. Silverman And Bryan Alexander
October 31, 2002 01:15 PM

In death as in life, Richard Harris has proved to be a nonconformist.

In London Wednesday night, the actor — who died of Hodgkin’s disease last Friday at age 72 — received a posthumous outstanding contribution award at the British Independent Film Awards ceremony, having lost out the best actor award to “Bloody Sunday” star James Nesbitt.

But Harris — who rose to stardom as King Arthur in 1967’s “Camelot” yet will probably be best remembered for playing Albus Dumbledore in the first two “Harry Potter” movies — was still the major star of the evening, PEOPLE’s London bureau reports.

His sons Jared, Jamie and Damian accepted the award, with granddaughter Ella, 13 (who had urged the elder Harris to take on the part of Dumbledore in the first place) also onstage.

Jared Harris delivered an emotional thank-you to the London acting community for their outpouring of support in the wake of his father’s passing, and he went on to thank the Munster Rugby Club of Limerick, Ireland.

The team was Richard Harris’s passion, his son said — despite the fact that the actor himself admitted that club members “never wanted him to show up because every time he showed up they lost.”

But given his father’s propensity for telling tall tales, Jared offered proof — and read a letter from a 7-year-old fan of Munster.

It was addressed to Professor Dumbledore, and it said: “You are a very good actor, I have the video of ‘Harry Potter.’ Please, please don’t come to the match. But if you really must come, could you wear your cloak of invisibility.”