Scots TV and theatre star Andy Gray dies aged 61

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image copyrightAlan Peebles
image captionAndy Gray as Pete Galloway in BBC soap River City

Tributes have been paid to the actor Andy Gray who has died at the age of 61.

The Perth-born star was a well known face on TV and the stage for more than 40 years.

Among his best known on-screen roles were "Chancer" in the 1980s comedy City Lights and more recently "Pete Galloway" in BBC soap River City.

His River City co-star Gayle Telfer Stevens said Gray was a "national treasure".

She added: "Not only was he an exceptional actor and entertainer who brought so much joy to so many people, he was an extraordinary man.

"When you were in his presence you could feel it was of greatness. The most kind, clever, funny beyond measure, beautiful man."

image captionAndy Gray, second from the left in the back row, starred as "Chancer" in the hit 1980s comedy show "City Lights"
image copyrightMagnum Photos
image captionAndy Gray performing at the Edinburgh Festival in 2013

Steve Carson, director of BBC Scotland, said: "We are deeply saddened by the news that one of Scotland's much loved comedy actors and close friend to many at BBC Scotland, Andy Gray has passed away.

"On screen and in person he could always make you laugh and was one of the kindest people to have around on any production. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."

image copyrightDouglas Robertson
image captionAndy Gray, pictured with Grant Stott, had been one of the stars at Edinburgh's King's Theatre pantomime for years

Martin McCardie, executive producer at BBC Scotland Studios, added: "When Andy joined River City in 2016 he had an extremely successful stage, TV and film career behind him, but the character of Pete Galloway turned out to be one of the most popular ever to pass through Shieldinch.

"Andy took ill in 2018 and he had to leave the show and he had a difficult time. His ongoing recovery was borne with humour and gratitude for what he had. He had unfinished business on River City and we were looking forward to welcoming him back to film with us before the end of the current series."

Andy Gray was genuinely one of the nicest people in the world of showbusiness.

Whether you were an actor, or a journalist, or just someone who'd seen him in panto, he was always ready to have a chat.

When he dropped out of his Fringe show in 2018, after being diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia, he was inundated with good wishes, but said he wanted privacy to deal with his illness.

He retreated to his home in Perthshire and took the time to recover.

When he returned to the stage of the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh for their 2019 panto, it was an emotional milestone.

Wrapped in his Batman dressing gown backstage (he was a huge fan with a shed full of film paraphernalia) he admitted it could be overwhelming. Sometimes the whoops and cheers of the audience at his arrival in the midst of a glitzy song and dance routine would go on for several minutes.

His co-stars Grant Stott and Allan Stewart watched from the wings and said it had restored the balance of their long established trio. The Kings is one of the only theatres to have a tradition of a pantette - where the cast sit in the auditorium and watch the front of house staff performing the show. Andy wasn't spared the merciless send up, nor would he have wanted to.

Daughter Claire was also in the show - as one of the three bears - and her baby daughter was in Andy's arms for the curtain call. But whether his actual family, or his panto family, or the generations of people who've seen him onstage or screen, it was a moment of hope, as well as joy, that someone who'd brought so much laughter and entertainment to Scotland was back.

That's why his sudden death at 61 is such a cruel blow.

He had been campaigning to keep the Kings afloat, and was involved in online performances. He and Allan Stewart had hoped to appear in one of the few surviving pantomimes in Milton Keynes but that too was cancelled.

Friends and colleagues knew he'd been admitted to hospital in the last few days, and feared the worst. Those who simply knew him as someone who made them laugh, on stage or screen, are no less bereft.

Tonight the world of Scottish entertainment is in mourning for a gifted comic actor, writer and genuinely nice man.

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