Dennis Taylor on Wednesday described how he had "laughed his way around the world" with his great friend and fellow snooker legend Willie Thorne, who has died at the age of 66 following a battle with leukaemia.
Thorne, with his bald head and bushy moustache, was one of the most famous faces in snooker's golden age in the 1980s and 1990s, also becoming a familiar figure on game shows, and in 2007 appearing as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.
Ulsterman Taylor, who famously won the 'black ball' world final against Steve Davis in 1985, said: "I first met Willie on the snooker show Pot Black in the mid 1970s and we have been firm friends ever since.
"Willie and I, along with the great Joe Davis, went to Canada in the late 70s to play in the first overseas tournament.
"We have travelled around the world laughing ever since, playing tournaments. We played in Alaska once. After the snooker, we were taken out in a boat and Willie hooked a 50lb salmon while I was being seasick. We had some great laughs about it over the years.
"Willie was one of the great characters in the game, very recognisable with the bald head and the moustache, then you had me with the silly glasses. Willie was a charming man. He just had that air about him."
Thorne, who never won the world title, loved a joke and Taylor recalled one incident at World Championship venue the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
"Willie walked into the players' lounge, noticed there were six former world champions in the room and quipped, 'There was no one famous in here until I walked in'," said Taylor, who starred in programmes such as Big Break and the Antiques Roadshow alongside Thorne.
Thorne struggled with a serious gambling addiction for many years and reckoned he had lost upwards of £1 million, being declared bankrupt in 2016.
Taylor said: "It was sad about the gambling. I remember once we were commentating on a match together between John Parrott and Ken Doherty and Willie knew John had broken his cue so he backed Ken. Ken went 2-0 up but John came back and won 5-2. I think Willie lost something like £30,000 on that bet alone."
Thorne was one of the game's leading players for almost two decades, also carving out a successful career as a pundit.
Taylor's fellow Ulsterman Joe Swail, World Championship semi-finalist in 2000 and 2001, added: "A great character and we had some fun times in my early years. He was a fantastic player. Snooker has lost another star."
Thorne was close friends with football legend and top broadcaster Gary Lineker, with the pair hailing from Leicester.
"Deeply, deeply saddened to hear that my friend Willie Thorne has passed away. One of life's great characters. A marvellous snooker player and a lovely man who's potted his final black much too soon," Lineker tweeted.
Thorne was a World Championship quarter-finalist twice - losing to Belfast's Alex Higgins - and also won the 1985 Mercantile Credit Classic, his sole ranking tournament triumph, but he is also remembered for a heartbreaking defeat to Steve Davis three months later in the final of the UK Championship which would have given him his major breakthrough.
Thorne will also be remembered as one of the stars on the unlikely Chas and Dave hit Snooker Loopy alongside several of the game's other big names, including Taylor, the song reaching number six in the charts in 1986.
He retired in 2001 with a career in the commentary box beckoning.
Thorne was married to former Miss Great Britain Jill Saxby, the couple eventually splitting up after 24 years.
The tributes were headed by snooker greats such as Ronnie O'Sullivan, Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, but Thorne also transcended the sport, with former world heavyweight boxing champion Frank Bruno and 16-time world darts champion Phil Taylor among many to send condolences.
Thorne, who announced he was battling leukaemia in March, had been placed in an induced coma in hospital in Spain over the weekend after suffering respiratory failure.
Thorne's carer Julie O'Neill said: "I was with him all the way to his end and reading out messages to him from people.
"He passed away very peacefully and without pain, listening to his children saying they love him. That gives me some comfort in this difficult time."
World Snooker tweeted: "We are deeply saddened to hear that the Great WT himself, Willie Thorne, has passed away at the age of 66.
"It's a great loss to our sport. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time. RIP Willie."