Tributes for Gerry Anderson Show phone-in regular Geordie Tuft after he dies in house fire
A well-known radio phone-in contributor and "colourful character" has died after a fire broke out at his Loughbrickland home.
Fire crews from Rathfriland, Newry and Banbridge were called to the bungalow owned by Geordie Tuft, on the Legananny Road, shortly after midday yesterday.
Mr Tuft, a farmer and minor celebrity in Loughbrickland, was known for his comedy call-ins to the Gerry Anderson Show.
He is believed to have been in his 70s and was renowned for his hilarious advice on animal husbandry, particularly goats.
BBC presenter Stephen Nolan tweeted last night: "Geordie Tuft made me laugh so much. Laugh out loud so hard that it hurt. I'll miss him from the airwaves."
Described by friends as a "character and witty eccentric", Mr Tuft would offer serious-sounding advice and countryside wisdom that quickly descended into comedy.
In one Gerry Anderson Show, he discussed the issue of donkey flatulence, and he appeared in local newspapers many times, including when his prize goat 'Billy' appeared in the film Shrooms.
In 2004, he was the victim of a violent burglary. Masked men struck him on the head, handcuffed him to a table, and fled with just £5. Afterwards he told the BBC he would not be intimidated.
"I am back to my old self again and I am not a bit afraid," he said. "The half-door is lying open the way it always was. Any pensioner living on their own should not be afraid for the law is there and they are there to protect them."
In a tribute article to the late Mr Anderson, who died in August 2014, in the Belfast Telegraph, Ivan Little referred to Mr Tuft as "a slow-talking fast-thinking farmer from somewhere down around Loughbrickland, who was for thousands of listeners an oracle of all things rural including the ancient art of dunging out a bed".
DUP councillor Carla Lockhart said the community was in shock. "My condolences are with the family of the deceased," she said. "This is heart-wrenching news. Loughbrickland is a close-knit community and this will rock it.
"I commend the Fire Service for their assistance with this situation and know that efforts were made to bring the blaze under control by a large number of crews.
"The deceased, who was certainly a local character, will be sadly missed and our thoughts are with his family and friends. I pray that God will help.
"House fires have become all too prevalent and I personally will be working with the local fire authority to continue in their efforts to give advice and guidance around fire safety in the home."
People took to social media to pay their respects to the unlikely broadcasting star.
DUP Assemblyman Sydney Anderson said: "So sad to learn of the death of @bbcradioulster favourite Geordie Tuft, following a tragic fire at his home. Shared many enjoyable memories."
BBC broadcaster Mike Philpott tweeted: "Horrified to learn that Geordie Tuft, a real character on local radio, has died in a house fire."
And Belfast photographer John Baucher said: "RIP Geordie Tuft. Such a character."
The fire is not being treated as suspicious.