Belfast 'queen' of comic theatre May McFettridge has paid tribute to friend Bobby Ball, whose death was announced yesterday.
The comedian, who found fame in the Seventies and Eighties as half of Cannon And Ball with lifelong friend Tommy Cannon, was a regular on TV screens.
The 76-year-old performer had been admitted to Blackpool Victoria Hospital suffering from breathing difficulties, and died on Wednesday evening after testing positive for Covid-19.
"I'm sure there's a lot of us who grew up with Bobby on our TV screens every Saturday night," said John Linehan, who shared the stage with the funnyman in pantomime at Belfast's Grand Opera House in his guise as McFettridge.
"I was out doing some filming this morning and my wife called me with the news.
"It's a sad, sad loss and he'll be sorely missed.
"I remember the pantomime well. Cinderella in 1998.
"I was able to bring my new grandson on to the stage, just a week old.
"Bobby was so much more than a funnyman. People forget he was a great actor and a very accomplished musician.
"In Belfast with us he would love nothing more than heading over to Robinsons with his guitar for the evening and playing some songs.
"He was one of the original, all-round entertainers.
"I had looked up to him before I started doing all this caper, and to be sharing a stage with him after watching him on television for all those years was a wonderful experience."
During his career Ball starred in several sitcoms including Last Of The Summer Wine, Benidorm and Not Going Out. He also took part in ITV reality Show I'm A Celebrity... in 2005.
After sharing a 40-year career, comedy partner Cannon said he was "devastated" at the news.
"I've lost my partner, my best friend and the funniest man I know. Thank you for your messages, prayers and love," he said.
They hosted ITV's The Cannon And Ball show together for nine years between 1979 and 1988.
His manager Phil Dale said: "It is with great personal sadness that on behalf of Yvonne Ball and the family, and Tommy Cannon, I announce that Bobby Ball passed away at Blackpool Victoria hospital on 28 October 2020.
"Bobby had been taken to the hospital for tests as he started with breathing problems. At first it was thought to be a chest infection but a test proved positive for Covid-19.
"The family and Tommy express their sincere thanks to the many, many people who have been fans of Bobby and they know that they will all share in part the great loss and total sadness."
Declan Donnelly of Ant And Dec fame was among those paying tribute, saying he had been one of his "absolute favourite performers growing up".
This Morning hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby paid tribute on the ITV show, remembering Ball as "a genuinely lovely, sweet, kind man".
And singer Robbie Williams thanked him "for the memories and the laughter".