PRIME Minister Tony Blair was among those who paid tribute yesterday to a former council boss described as "one of life's true gentlemen".

Angus McIntyre, who died suddenly at the age of 55, was chief housing officer and deputy chief executive at Easington District Council during Mr Blair's early years as an MP.

Mr McIntyre lived with his journalist wife, Marjorie, and daughters Charlotte and Katie in Old Shotton, near Peterlee, east Durham.

He underwent a liver transplant operation earlier this year in Newcastle's Freeman Hospital and was on course for a full recovery until complications set in last Friday.

He is the son of the late Donald McIntyre, who was Durham Cathedral architect. His mother, Margaret, lives in the Isle of Man.

He was an old boy of Bow School and Durham School and studied to be a quantity surveyor at Newcastle University's School of Architecture.

He worked for Durham County Council and the former Peterlee Development Corporation before joining Easington council. His career was cut short by illness in 1993.

A keen sportsman, he played cricket and rugby for Durham City. In recent years, he was a supporter of Darlington Football Club.

Mr Blair said: "When I first became an MP, Angus was one of the senior officers of Easington District Council and I often called on him for help and advice. He was always on hand when needed, and his thoughtfulness and wisdom were invaluable to me as a new constituency MP.

"Angus was a very special officer and a loving family man. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him."

Easington MP John Cummings said: "He was one of life's true gentlemen."

Easington's chief executive, Paul Wilding, said: "Angus was affectionately regarded by all his colleagues at whatever level they worked in the organisation."

A funeral service for Mr McIntyre will be held at St Cuthbert's Church, Durham, tomorrow, at 1pm