The world of showbusiness has paid tribute to Perth-born actor and comedy icon Andy Gray, who died following a brief battle with coronavirus.
The River City star was last night described by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as “a legend of the Scottish acting community”.
It is understood he died at the weekend, after testing positive for Covid-19.
Andy became a household name during the 1980s as a regular in the hit Scottish sketch show Naked Video. But he was perhaps best known as the Del Boy-esque Chancer in the Glasgow-set sitcom City Lights.
The former Perth Academy student began his acting career at Perth Theatre in the 1970s. He was recently in talks with operators Horsecross Arts about reviving his stage show Perth In The Buff once restrictions eased.
He had also offered his assistance to the Fair City venue during lockdown. In a video clip especially recorded for Horsecross, as part of a collaborative poem, he spoke about what he missed most about the limelight.
“To feel the laugh build as you dance with the gag, to play with it, with them, then the joy of the tag,” he said.
Perth Theatre’s artistic director Lu Kemp said: “Andy got in touch at the beginning of the first lockdown last year to ask if he could help the theatre in any way, and I jumped at the chance.
“I hugely enjoyed the brief contact I had with him. He was such a generous, supportive and warm man who had a thoroughly lovely gentle showmanship.”
She said: “He helped us out with a number of community events – our first Fun Palaces, a collective poem we’re making with Jim Mackintosh – and we were in conversation about bringing his sketch show Perth in the Buff back once restrictions allowed.”
Lu said: “I’m sorry to miss that opportunity and the chance to know Andy better. Andy was lovely to work with and this is a really sad loss to the Perth Theatre community, and to audiences everywhere. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Your memories of live performance and hopes for the future are moving and inspiring us. If you need a little inspiration here’s a peek at actor Andy Gray’s contribution. Jim Mackintosh will blend together everyone’s contribution into a film poem which will capture these turbulent times in a work we can look back on forever. Find out how to take part: https://www.horsecross.co.uk/creative-learning/everyone-means-something HxJoin In – Horsecross Perth
Posted by Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre – Horsecross on Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Andy quit BBC Scotland soap River City in 2018 as he battled a rare type of blood cancer, but he returned to the stage the following year.
Fife-based author Ian Rankin tweeted: “Oh, this is very grim news. I remember being in the audience when Andy returned to panto after some health problems. Never felt so much love for an actor in an auditorium.”
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the actor “brought so much joy and laughter to theatre audiences. He was a stage and screen institution.”
She added: “His family will sorely miss him, but Scotland will also miss one of its best known sons of stage.”
Perth-born broadcaster and author Stuart Cosgrove added: “So sorry to hear about one of Perth’s finest.”
Ms Sturgeon also tweeted her tribute: “Andy was a legend to the Scottish acting community from City Lights, to panto, River City and so much more besides.
“He was also a funny and really lovely guy. He will be sorely missed by many.”
In 2016, Andy took a starring role at the launch of Perth’s ambitious bid for UK City of Culture.
His death at the weekend was announced by BBC Scotland director Steve Carson. “We are deeply saddened by the news that one of Scotland’s much loved comedy actors and close friend to many at BBC Scotland has passed away,” he said.
“On screen and in person he could always make you laugh and was one of the kindest people to have around on any production.”
Martin McCardie, River City’s executive producer, added: “Everyone at River City, all cast and crew are devastated to hear the extremely sad news that Andy Gray passed away this morning.
“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 characters ever to pass through Shieldinch.”
He said: “His loss will be felt throughout our production and he will never be forgotten by all who knew him, but that is nothing compared to the loss that his family and partner are feeling now, all our thoughts and sympathies are with them.”