TRIBUTES have been paid to a much-loved father-of-16, who was known as the singing taxi driver, following his death from a brain tumour.

Stephen Eccles, 52, from Leadgate, near Consett, was well-known in the area where he worked as a cab driver for more than 20 years.

He was famous in the area for singing to passengers, as well as dressing up and decorating his taxi over the Christmas period.

Mr Eccles, who had 16 children – eight boys and eight girls – with his wife, Helen, died on Thursday after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

The Northern Echo: Stephen Eccles with his youngest son, BenjaminStephen Eccles with his youngest son, Benjamin

Mrs Eccles, 49, said: “He was a very well-known taxi driver.

“He would sing with the customers as he was driving them around, especially on a night time.

“He would sing anything.

“He would have competitions in his car, like guess the song and guess the music.

“From the young to the old, he was loved by all his customers.”

As well as singing, Mr Eccles was also renowned for his love of Christmas.

Mrs Eccles said: “He would decorate and light his taxi up throughout the Christmas season and dress up too.

“He loved his job and that was the things he missed when he became ill because he could not drive after the diagnosis.”

The Northern Echo: Stephen Eccles and wife Helen with baby Benjamin Stephen Eccles and wife Helen with baby Benjamin

Mr Eccles had went for tests and was diagnosed with a brain tumour that required immediate treatment in August 2018.

He beat the disease but was told it had returned more aggressively.

Mrs Eccles said: “He had initial treatment and he rallied.

“He had an operation and he was good for the summer, but then he started to show symptoms again in October.

“By the beginning of December he really just wasn’t himself.”

In tribute, on Thursday night, taxi drivers from the Consett area organised a convoy to pay their respects to his family.

Mrs Eccles, has 11 of her children at home, aged one to 18, said: “I would like to say ‘thank you’ to all of our family, friends and the local community for kind words and support, including The Hunger Hangout in Leadgate, Delta North, The Corona Vulnerable People and Volunteer Group (Consett), all of his work colleagues and other taxi drivers in Consett.

“The kind-heart comments people have made over this past week have been amazing.

“People have gone above and beyond.”

It is understood Mr Eccles, who worked for Neashams, came from a big family and had always wanted one himself.

His children are: Rachel, 31, Matthew, 25, Hannah, 24, Katie, 23, Andrew, 21, Daniel, 18, Jack, 16, Declan, 15, Maya, 14, Lola, 12, Evie, 11, Emily, nine, William, eight, Ebony, six, Caleb three, and Benjamin, one.

He also had two grandchildren, Finlay, three, and Oliver, two.

Mrs Eccles, who was married to Stephen for 26 years, said: “He worked long hours so he could provide for children and myself.

“He was a lovely family man and was very kind.

“He was so proud of all the children. When anyone got in the taxi, straight away he would talk about his family.”

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the number of people who will be able to attend Mr Eccles funeral on Monday, May 18, will be limited to close family only.

He is being buried at Seven Penny Meadows, in Medomsley, in a plot next to his mother-in-law, and the service will be led by Captain Amanda Smethurst, from Leadgate Salvation Army.

It will start at 2pm and the funeral cortege is leaving the family home for a drive around Consett at 1.30pm

A fundraiser set up to support the family has so far raised more than £1,300.

To donate click here