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Leave your tribute to comic legend Bobby Knoxall

Tributes have been pouring in for Sunderland comic Bobby Knoxall.

Wearside is in mourning for the comedian who died at Sunderland Royal Hospital, aged 75.

Bobby, from Aintree Road, Farringdon, enjoyed more than 50 years in the entertainment business.

Leave your tribute to Bobby in the comment box at the bottom of this page

He went from selling tomatoes as a barrow boy on a Sunderland bomb site, to appearing in cabaret with Johnny Mathis, Roy Orbison and Louis Armstrong.

But he was also well known and respected for his charity work and devotion to his home city.

Bobby, who suffered from liver and kidney problems, died with his wife Diane at his bedside, with his children Ryan, John, Brent, Stephen and Robert, and nephew Gary who was also like a son to him.

His brother Charlie, his wife Sylvia, brother Kenny, his wife Audrey, and sister Violet were all with Bobby in his final hour.

"It was a full room," said Ryan. "Everyone that loved him and was close to him was there.

"He was in a very deep sleep. He could hear our voices and he just slipped away peacefully.

"It is a massive loss to Sunderland. He raised millions of pounds for charities and was given an MBE four years ago for all the work he has done for good causes."

Ryan added: "I will remember him just as a great dad.

"Someone who was always there when I needed him and always told it exactly how it was."

The comic's friend and biographer, Sunderland University lecturer Patrick Lavelle, said: "Bobby Knoxall was a true Mackem. Proud of his roots and always fighting the city's corner.

"To some he was a bit rough around the edges, yes, but always a gentleman."

Bobby, whose real name was Robert McKenna, was born in the East End.

Unable to read or write after being expelled from two schools by the age of 12, he got a job as a barrow boy selling fruit.

His best pitch was on the bomb site where The Bridges now stands.

He got his break in showbiz as an acrobatic dancer after winning competitions at the Rink Ballroom, in Park Lane.

Bobby appeared with a group of rock 'n' roll dancers in London, before becoming a vocalist and turning his patter between songs into a comedy act.

He became big on the club circuit, and graduated to some of the top cabaret shows in the UK and abroad, becoming popular in Africa and the Middle East and appearing on bills with Ella Fitzgerald and Jose Feliciano.

The comedian became a mainstay of the Tyne Tees programme What Fettle, and sang SAFC's 1973 FA Cup Final record Sunderland All The Way.

He survived a couple of heart attacks and bowed out of showbiz, but defied the odds to make a comeback in 2002.

He was awarded an MBE for services to comedy and made an "ambassador" for Sunderland by the council.

Bobby helped to raise more than 1million for charities during his career, including 20,000 for the Grace House Appeal.

One of Bobby's best friends, Bill Tipping, 65, said: "It's very sad.

"He was a legend in the North East and he went abroad to Africa, Dubai and all that. There wasn't much he hasn't done.

"He was top dog."

 
 
 

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