Comic actor Roy Barraclough, who played Rovers Return landlord Alec Gilroy in Coronation Street, has died aged 81.
His death on Thursday morning came after a short illness, his agent said.
Julie Goodyear, who played his on-screen wife Bet Lynch in the ITV soap, said she was “devastated” by the loss of her “dearest friend”.
Lancashire-born Barraclough was also known for his partnership with Les Dawson, especially their portrayal of gossiping housewives Cissie and Ada.
He made his debut on the Corrie cobbles in 1964 as a tour guide and landed the role of Alec Gilroy in the early 1970s.
Barraclough joined the soap permanently in 1986, his character marrying Bet Lynch and the pair becoming a fixture behind the bar of the Rovers Return.
‘Like a married couple’
Goodyear said: “I have no words to describe how devastated I feel. We kept in close touch and spoke to each other at least two or three times every week.
“I will treasure all the happy times we had working and laughing together. We were just like a married couple, crazy, I know, but true.
“Rest in peace Roy. I will always love you.”
While playing Gilroy, Barraclough insisted on taking time out every year to appear on stage.
His spokesman said it was his need to be written in and out of Coronation Street that led writers to give Gilroy a second job as an acts promoter on cruise ships.
He finally left the show at Christmas 1998, when Gilroy started a new life with granddaughter Vicky Arden.
Barraclough started his career as a comedian and pianist at an Isle of Wight holiday camp before joining the Huddersfield Repertory Company and then Oldham’s Coliseum Theatre company.
His partnership with Les Dawson began in the late 1960s and they struck up a much-loved double act as Cissie and Ada.
The gossip-loving northern pair – full names Cissie Braithwaite, played by Barraclough, and Ada Shufflebotham, played by Dawson – were seen on TV in the 1970s and ’80s.
Dawson’s daughter Charlotte tweeted that she was “devastated” at the news of Barraclough’s death, adding: “At least you get to be reunited with my daddy.”
The actor was seen on screens most recently last year, in a revival of classic sitcom Are You Being Served?.
His numerous other TV appearances included Last Tango in Halifax, Last of the Summer Wine and Casualty, with stage work including Death of a Salesman.
Barraclough was awarded the MBE for services to drama and charity, and had been the patron of Willow Wood Hospice in Greater Manchester for more than 20 years.
He died at the hospice following his illness.