Country music in mourning for Gene Stuart
The death was announced last night of country singer Gene Stuart, who died after a long illness. He was 72.
The Tyrone man - a former photographer with the Dungannon Observer - was well-known across Ireland, having sung with leading showband The Mighty Avons, which he joined in 1969, as well as The Homesteaders.
Mr Stuart, who had originally planned to join the priesthood, owned a record shop in Dungannon. Friend Michael Commins - who had been updating fans about Mr Stuart's illness - paid tribute to the popular singer.
Writing on Facebook, Mr Commins said: "Gene Stuart, my special friend in country music since the 1970s, died shortly after 4pm today.
"Gene was an absolute legend to those of us who love real traditional country music.
"To me, Gene held iconic status in Irish country music.
"He was always a tremendous ambassador for Tyrone and one of the finest and noblest people on the country circuit.
"Even though we knew the battle was going to be tough for him, I am heartbroken at the loss of a truly special friend."
Sending his condolences to the musician's family, Mr Commins said: "We will all miss our beloved hero."
More than 100 messages of condolence and tribute had been posted on Facebook last night as news of the singer's death became known.
Sinn Fein MLA Bronwyn McGahan tweeted: "Sad to hear about the death of Country & Western singer Gene Stuart, held in high regard by all of us in Killeeshil Parish & further away RIP."
The singer's funeral will take place at 1pm in Killeeshil Church near Dungannon on Sunday.