A VETERAN South Tyneside comedian has died at the age of 77.
Today, the family of Alan Fox paid tribute to him after he lost his battle with cancer on Monday.
Alan, whose real name was Thomas Duffy, travelled the country entertaining audiences, including the late Princess Margaret, and performed alongside stars including Vera Lynn, Frankie Vaughn, the Krankies and Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown.
Wife Edna, 79, of Lavington Road, Westoe, South Shields, said: “Tom was a lovely man. He’d never let anyone down. He’d literally crawl from his sick bed to perform.
“It was only us who made him stop in the end. Otherwise, he’d have still been on the stage. He loved it.
“Everyone thought so much of him, he made friends wherever he went, and he always stayed in touch with everyone.”
Growing up in Laygate in South Shields, Mr Duffy left St Bede’s School and served his time in the shipyards before doing national service, becoming a bombardier.
He met his wife-to-be at the Vigilant pub in Harton Village, South Shields, when he was 18, and in 1960, they were married at St Michael’s Church in Westoe.
During that time, Alan worked at Jackson’s the tailors and then in Woods, but he had already started singing a few nights a week at go-as-you-please events in local pubs, regularly winning top prizes of £3.
Edna said: “In the early Sixties, he moved down to Doncaster to work as a singer. He used to send me his dirty shirts in a parcel, and I’d send them back down all starched.
“After a while, his bookings took him further back home, and he started to incorporate more jokes into his routine.
“He then said he’d become a comic as they were better paid.
“There was already a singer called Johnny Duffy on the circuit, and it was getting confusing, so he took my maiden name of Fox, and I’m not too sure where Alan came from.”
Mr Duffy – father to Janet Johnson, 52, and Kevin, who died in a road accident in 1974 at the age of nine – soon became something of a celebrity, especially in Jersey, where he performed six summer seasons.
In 1978, he opened Foxy’s Musical Hall, in Barrington Street, South Shields, and also made numerous television appearances, including starring in adverts for Tudor Crisps and brown ale, plus The Machine Gunners, When The Boat Comes In, The Comedians, Bonny Lad and Mike Neville’s Funny You Should Say That.
Five years ago, Alan, also grandfather to Jack Johnson, 24, was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the liver and bowel, but he tried not to let his illness get in his way.
Janet said: “He just took four paracetamol a day and got on with it. His last show was in November.
“He didn’t want people to know he had cancer but, since he was so well known, people kept spotting him on his way to hospital.
“Dad was such an honest man, the first thing that popped into his head came straight out of his mouth.
“He just made a joke out of everything and I know a lot of people will miss him.”
His funeral will be held at South Shields Crematorium on Wednesday, at 2.30pm.