A pioneer of women’s snooker and a renowned player, commentator and fashion designer has died, the day after her 93rd birthday.

Tributes have been paid to Vera Selby, who was renowned across the sporting world as nine times British billiards champion and best female snooker player in the world in 1976 and 1981.

Born in Richmond, North Yorkshire, her father was manager of the Freeman, Hardy and Willis shoe shop in the town.

She maintained a lifelong connection to Richmond, becoming Master of the 400 year-old Fellmongers Guild, the first woman to hold that position in its history. Part of the proceeds from her estate have been left to the Richmondshire Museum.

At the age of seven, Vera was introduced to billiards by her Uncle Jack - who had a table in his cellar - which was the start of a lifelong love of cue sports.

But she always regarded snooker as a pastime, pursuing a career in fashion at Leeds University and becoming a senior art, textile and dress designer at Newcastle Polytechnic.

Aged 36, British coach Alf Nolan spotted her playing and her sporting career took off. Friends said that alongside her creative flair was a steely determination to win, driving her to become the first ever women’s champion. In 1981 at 51, her success made her the oldest woman world champion in any sport.

The Northern Echo: Snooker champion Vera Selby, left, is presented with the Guinness Women's World Snooker TrophySnooker champion Vera Selby, left, is presented with the Guinness Women's World Snooker Trophy (Image: Newsquest)

She retired early from fashion at the age of 53, becoming a television commentator for snooker, qualifying as a referee, and was made chairman of the North East Billiards and Snooker Association.

In 2014 she won a lifetime achievement award for services to billiards.

When Prince Charles presented her with an MBE in 2016 aged 85, saying she didn't look like a snooker player, she told BBC’s Rob Walker: “I replied, saying we weren’t all big butch male players and he laughed.”

Former men's world champion Shaun Murphy said Vera was "one of the pioneers of women's snooker".

Writing on Twitter he added: "She was an early trailblazer for girls and women who followed. May she rest in peace."

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association said: "We thank Vera for her tremendous contribution to our sport and send condolences to her friends and family."

The Northern Echo: Vera Selby, multiple world women;s snooker and billiards champion, pictured in 2011Vera Selby, multiple world women;s snooker and billiards champion, pictured in 2011 (Image: Newsquest)

Writing on his blog Grass Routes (mikeamosblog.wordpress.com) former Northern Echo writer Mike Amos described her as "one of the most accomplished women in sport – and one of the most delightful".

He recalled her pioneering spirit, adding: “At Shiney Row Workmen’s Club near Sunderland, she and snooker partner Ray Lennox were refused admission on the very obvious grounds that she was female.

"Vera insisted that he find a committee member. What happened next was recorded in one of her many inimitable verses: 'They told it to the secretary, His voice could not be clearer, No women are allowed in here, We only let in Vera'."

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He added: “Vera Selby’s was a truly remarkable life and a truly incredible story.”

Vera, nee Danby, was married to hairdresser Bruce Selby, who was 28 years older. She was a widow at 60.

The proceeds of her estate are set to be displayed and auctioned to raise money to promote the sport for young people at the Ashington club and for the Richmondshire Museum.