TOMMY Cannon has said he is “devastated” following the death of his comedy partner Bobby Ball at the age of 76 after testing positive for Covid.

The comedian, actor and author had been in hospital with breathing problems and died at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on October 28 at around 9.30pm.

Mr Ball rose from the cabaret circuit of northern England to become a household name.

Cannon, with whom Ball found fame on the smash hit The Cannon And Ball Show, which ran from 1979 to 1988, said: “Rock on, my good friend, I can’t believe this, I’m devastated.”

The duo also starred in the films The Boys in Blue 1982 and Mr H Is Late in 1988, and appeared on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2005.

A statement from his manager Phil Dale, who announced the death, said: “Bobby was a true comedy star who loved entertaining people and he loved life itself. I spoke to him every day and it would always end in laughter.

“His wife Yvonne said that the family and Tommy would like to express their sincere thanks to the many, many people who have been fans of Bobby and they know that they will all share in part the great loss and total sadness that Yvonne, the family and Tommy all feel.

“Yvonne added that their need for privacy at this time has to be a priority. No further announcements or statements will be made.”

Ball was born Robert Harper on January 28 1944 in Oldham, Lancashire and met Cannon, real name Thomas Derbyshire, while he was working in a factory as a welder.

After the success of The Cannon And Ball Show he appeared in a string of TV series including as Lenny in Last Of The Summer Wine from 2005 to 2008.

He also played Topsy Turner in Heartbeat and appeared in Mount Pleasant, Benidorm and The Cockfields.

Tributes to the much-loved comedian flooded in from the entertainment industry and public alike, with many quoting the popular catchphrase "rock on".

One Twitter user remembers seeing the young comedian in a panto while another laughed all the way through a Barnard Castle show. 

Fellow comedian Jason Manford, writing on social media, said: "So heartbroken to read about the passing of comedy legend Bobby Ball. Such a hilarious man. The comedy community is a poorer place without him."

Actress and comedian Diane Morgan called the 76-year-old a "treat to work with.

She said: "So sad to hear about Bobby Ball. He was such a treat to work with. Never stopped making us all laugh. We’ll miss you Bobby!"

Ball played Lee Mack’s troublesome father Frank in the BBC One sitcom Not Going Out since 2009 and in 2012 competed in the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special.