Allan Stewart has paid tribute to his long-time friend and pantomime co-star Andy Gray, who has died aged 61 after getting coronavirus.
The duo performed at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre Christmas show for many years – becoming an annual festive tradition for thousands of people in the capital.
Perth-born Gray, a cancer survivor, was also a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe, performing as part of a double act with Grant Stott.
Stewart told STV News that Gray had contracted coronavirus and had been on a ventilator in the weeks leading up to his death, which was confirmed on Monday.
Stewart said: “It hasn’t quite sunk in yet I’m afraid, I can’t quite believe that he is gone.
“We worked together down in Milton Keynes rehearsing the pantomime just before Christmas and we had a full ten days of laughing and joking, it was just like we were back doing the King’s panto again and it wasn’t long after that when he called and said ‘I’ve got Covid, it’s just been positive’.
“And we thought ‘well, he’s strong’, he was fit, the ironic thing about this is that he had just got through this terrible cancer and he had beaten it, so we obviously had the feeling he could beat it again because he’s got that kind of mind about him, he’s got that strength in him
“We woke up this morning to the terrible news that he didn’t beat it. He’s been on a ventilator for about two weeks now and we have just been sending hope and thoughts and everything we possibly could send to help him through but this terrible disease eventually beat him.
“It’s devastating, it really is.”
Gray had been due to perform on stage in 2020’s panto offering, but Covid-19 restrictions meant the show was cancelled.
Gray also starred in the BBC Radio Scotland sketch show Naked Radio, which then transferred to television as Naked Television, before earning the role of Chancer in the 1987 sitcom City Lights.
From 2016, he played the character of Pete Galloway in BBC soap River City, leaving the show in August 2018 due to MDS (Myelodysplastic syndromes) – a type of blood cancer in which blood cells do not fully develop healthily in the bone marrow.
A spokesperson for Capital Theatres in Edinburgh said Gray would be remembered with “love, a smile and affection for the many years of fun, friendship and brightness he brought to all our lives”.
The spokesperson said: “The thoughts of everyone at Capital Theatres are with Andy’s family at this very sad time. Rest in peace Andy.”
Among those paying tribute was First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who tweeted: “So sad to hear this. Andy was a legend of 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. My condolences are with his family and friends.”
BBC Scotland director Steve Carson 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 has passed away.
“Among many roles for the BBC he will always be lovingly remembered as audience favourites, the iconic ‘Chancer’ in City Lights and the silver tongued entertainer Pete Galloway in River City.
“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.”