The family of Eddie Large have spoken of their sadness at not being able to visit the comedy giant in the days before his death after he contracted coronavirus in hospital.
The Little And Large star, whose partnership with Syd Little was watched by millions in the duo’s heyday, died aged 78 after being infected with what his family described as “this horrible disease” while being treated for heart failure.
Little said he was “devastated” by the news, telling BBC Radio Lancashire: “He had been ill for a while but when it happens, it hits you.”
“We were together 60 years, It wasn’t like having a partner,” the BBC quoted Little as saying. “We were friends.”
Comedy stars Russ Abbot, Sir Lenny Henry, Paul Chuckle, Ant and Dec and Matt Lucas were among the first to pay tribute.
His son Ryan McGinnis posted on Facebook: “It is with great sadness that mum and I need to announce that my dad… passed away in the early hours of this morning.
“He has been suffering with heart failure and unfortunately, whilst in hospital, contracted coronavirus, which his heart was sadly not strong enough to fight.
“Dad fought bravely for so long. Due to this horrible disease we had been unable to visit him at the hospital but all of the family and close friends spoke to him every day.
“We will miss him terribly and we are so proud of everything he has achieved in his career with Syd and know that he was much loved by the millions that watched them every week.”
His agent Peter Mansfield told the PA news agency: “His family were very sad not to be able to be in the same room as him, touching him, in the last week because of coronavirus.
“They were only able to speak on the phone, which was obviously very sad for them.
“But they wanted to say thank-you to the NHS which was fantastic throughout.”
Speaking about the life-saving heart transplant and treatment the comedian underwent many years ago, Mr Mansfield said: “The family wanted to say how grateful they are for the extra 17 years that they have had with Eddie. And a huge thank-you to the donor and the donor’s family.”
Large, who was born in Glasgow but grew up in Manchester, formed his double act with Little in 1963.
The pair went on to win Opportunity Knocks and appeared regularly on TV for the next 20 years.
Their prime-time BBC One series The Little And Large Show attracted audiences of almost 15 million before it was axed in 1991.
In 2010, Large, who was famous for interrupting his co-star, revealed he had not spoken to Little for some time.
“I haven’t seen Syd for years. He lives up near Blackpool and I live near Bristol, so I haven’t spoken to him for a long time,” he told TV Times.
Ant and Dec were among a host of stars paying tribute to Large on Twitter, writing: “So sad to hear about the passing of Eddie Large.
“We had the pleasure of working with him and Syd a few years ago. He just loved making people laugh. He will be missed. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”
Comedy star Abbot said in a statement: “Eddie was one of the best. Totally and naturally funny.
“I was very fortunate to be around in the same era as him. He had the best years on TV.
“He was a tough act to follow. Hugely popular but more than that, a thoroughly nice man. My thoughts go out to (his wife) Patsy and family. RIP Eddie”
Chuckle wrote: “RIP the very talented Eddie Large. Such a funny and lovely man. Love goes out to his family at this time.”
Jason Manford tweeted: “Such a gentle, funny man. RIP Eddie.”
Matt Lucas wrote: “Eddie Large (along with his supersonic friend Syd) was really lovely and kind and encouraging to me when I was a nipper on Shooting Stars.
“So sad to hear of his passing.”
Sir Lenny recalled “midnight matinee Great Yarmouth” in 1978.
He added: “They finished part one. I’d never heard laughter like it. Rude, raucous and rollicking. Dunno how they did it, but Eddie’s energy and electricity and impressions and props and improv were hugely impressive. R.I.P.”