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Comedian and game show host Tom O’Connor dies aged 81 after long battle with Parkinson’s Disease 

Beloved Liverpool comedian, gameshow host and actor Tom O’Connor has died in hospital aged 81 following a 14-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, his family said today. 

The veteran stand-up star spent his evenings as a maths and music teacher at the St Joan of Arc School in Bootle entertaining crowds in working men’s clubs before catching his big break on The Comedians, which gave a platform to stand-up comedians working the club circuit.  

O’Connor, who was born in Bootle, Lancashire in 1939 before moving to Twickenham for University, starred in Opportunity Knocks and became a household name in the 1970s and 1980s by hosting shows including Name That Tune, Crosswits and Pick Pockets.

He went on to front his own ITV show The Tom O’Connor Show, a light entertainment and comedy programme which ran at lunchtimes and had a peak audience of 12 million daily viewers. 

O’Connor made his acting debut in 2000 in BBC medical soap opera Doctors as Father Tom, a Catholic priest. He also made several appearances in reality television shows in later life, being crowned the champion on Celebrity Come Dine With Me and frequently appearing on Countdown.

Beloved comedian and game show host Tom O’Connor died in hospital today aged 81 following a 14-year battle with Parkinson’s disease

O'Connor, who was born in Bootle, Lancashire in 1939 before moving to Twickenham, West London for University, starred in Opportunity Knocks and became a household name in the 1970s and 1980s hosting shows including Name That Tune, Crosswits and Pick Pockets

O’Connor, who was born in Bootle, Lancashire in 1939 before moving to Twickenham, West London for University, starred in Opportunity Knocks and became a household name in the 1970s and 1980s hosting shows including Name That Tune, Crosswits and Pick Pockets

O'Connor has died in hospital aged 81 following a 14-year battle with Parkinson's disease, his family said. Pictured: at the London Palladium

O’Connor has died in hospital aged 81 following a 14-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, his family said. Pictured: at the London Palladium 

The veteran stand-up star spent his evenings as a maths and music teacher at the St Joan of Arc School in Bootle entertaining crowds in working men's clubs before catching his big break on The Comedians, which gave a platform to stand-up comedians working the club circuit. Pictured: on the set of Gambit

The veteran stand-up star spent his evenings as a maths and music teacher at the St Joan of Arc School in Bootle entertaining crowds in working men’s clubs before catching his big break on The Comedians, which gave a platform to stand-up comedians working the club circuit. Pictured: on the set of Gambit 

Sir Norman Wisdom uses fellow comedian Tom O'Connor to get a better view of a blue plaque unveiled in honour of Lord Grade at the London Palladium, March 19, 2000

Sir Norman Wisdom uses fellow comedian Tom O’Connor to get a better view of a blue plaque unveiled in honour of Lord Grade at the London Palladium, March 19, 2000

In 2011 he appeared on Pointless with his daughter-in-law, former athlete Denise Lewis, to win £500 for their chosen charities. He also wrote an autobiography called Take A Funny Turn in 1994, which offered an insight into his life both on and off screen.   

In a statement, his daughter-in-law – former athlete Denise Lewis – said O’Connor has passed away after a 14-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He leaves a wife and four children. 

She said: ‘His whole mantra was about making people laugh.

‘If you met him that’s all he wanted to do, which is make you feel good about yourself, which is a cherished quality which we don’t probably see enough of today.

‘He lived with Parkinson’s for about 14 years and we saw him coping very well and in the latter couple of years, it really started to take a hold and it’s tragic.

‘But without a doubt, Tom always tried to make light of it and even at the end, when he lost his battle with the disease, you could see that spark in his eyes, that humour still coming through those eyes of his right to the end.’

Piers Morgan has led tributes to O’Connor on Twitter, writing: ‘RIP Tom O’Connor, 81. Comedian, TV game show host, Liverpool legend & a very funny man. Sad news. Thanks for all the laughs, Tom.’ 

Former EastEnders actor Stuart Anthony paid tribute to O’Connor in a post on Twitter. He wrote: ‘Very sad to hear that Tom O’Connor has passed away. He was a lovely man with some great stories. My thoughts are with his family.’

BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker tweeted: ‘How sad. I had the pleasure of meeting Tom O’Connor and he was kind, funny and a true gent. I loved watching him on telly – Crosswits was great. My sympathies are with his family and friends.’

Liverpool City Council said: ‘Sad news breaking about the death of veteran Liverpool comedian Tom O’Connor. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.’

Carol Vorderman, who starred on Countdown with O’Connor when he made guest appearances on the show, said he ‘made so many of us who knew him smile as soon as he entered the room’.

She added: ‘Tom was often on Countdown & made us howl laughing all day long. I’ll miss you Tom. You were one of the very best. Rest In Laughter Sir.’

Former boxer Frank Bruno paid tribute to O’Connor in a post on Twitter.

He wrote: ‘Tom O’Connor RIP I worked with Tom many times over the years a real comical character he was so quick I was still laughing at a previous joke when had told another one, great all round entertainer.’ 

Tom O'Connor and Jimmy Tarbuck at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane in London for the 1998 Comic Heritage Comedy Awards

Tom O’Connor and Jimmy Tarbuck at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane in London for the 1998 Comic Heritage Comedy Awards

Tom O'Connor and Gloria Hunniford at a 'Strictly Tea Dancing' charity auction for the Caron Keating Foundation, London, November 7, 2010

Tom O’Connor and Gloria Hunniford at a ‘Strictly Tea Dancing’ charity auction for the Caron Keating Foundation, London, November 7, 2010

O'Connor has died after a 14-year battle with Parkinson's. He leaves a wife (pictured) and four children

O’Connor has died after a 14-year battle with Parkinson’s. He leaves a wife (pictured) and four children

Comedian and game show host Tom O'Connor dies aged 81 after long battle with Parkinson's Disease 

Comedian and game show host Tom O'Connor dies aged 81 after long battle with Parkinson's Disease 

Comedian and game show host Tom O'Connor dies aged 81 after long battle with Parkinson's Disease 

Comedian and game show host Tom O'Connor dies aged 81 after long battle with Parkinson's Disease 

Piers Morgan has led tributes to O'Connor on Twitter, writing: 'RIP Tom O'Connor, 81. Comedian, TV game show host, Liverpool legend & a very funny man. Sad news. Thanks for all the laughs, Tom'

Piers Morgan has led tributes to O’Connor on Twitter, writing: ‘RIP Tom O’Connor, 81. Comedian, TV game show host, Liverpool legend & a very funny man. Sad news. Thanks for all the laughs, Tom’

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