TRIBUTES have been paid to Merseyside-born entertainer Tom O’Connor, who passed away today.

The 81-year-old funnyman, actor and author, from Bootle - who appeared on stage many times at New Brighton's Floral Pavilion - was best known for presenting a number of hit gameshows including Crosswits and Name That Tune.

He died this morning, his family confirmed via his agent.

The former deputy head gave up a teaching career in 1974 to pursue comedy and never looked back.

His comedy career began in working men’s clubs, however he broke into television on shows including The Comedians and Opportunity Knocks.

He went on to establish himself as a household name through the 1970s and '80s including Pick Pockets, The Zodiac Game and Name That Tune.

He was also invited to appear on the Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium and in 1977 was the subject of This Is Your Life.

Later in his career O’Connor continued to appear on television, starring in BBC soap Doctors in the early 2000s and the celebrity edition of Come Dine With Me in 2010.

In 2011 he appeared on the Pointless Celebrities quiz show with daughter-in-law Denise Lewis, a former Olympic athlete.

He has also written a number of humorous books on golf.

Liverpool City Council paid tribute to O’Connor in a post on its official Twitter page.

It said: "Sad news breaking about the death of veteran Liverpool comedian Tom O’Connor ..

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Thanks for the laughs, Tom."

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."

Former EastEnders actor Stuart Anthony paid tribute to Tom 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."

Looking back on his career in an interview with the Globe in 2012, he said: "At the time I was teaching I was doing two comedy shows a week.

“In the last week I taught I got £68, but £1,000 entertaining. So, I decided that a career in entertainment was for me.

“When I started out I said I’d give it a year. Thankfully, I’m still here so must be doing something right.

“There are two things I’d like people to remember me as; a teacher and clean. In fact I was recently called to a cruise ship to take over from a comedian who was too blue."

On modern comedy, Berkshire-based Tom continued: "There's so much blue comedy around and very strong too.

"I’m a big fan of John Bishop, Alan and Jimmy Carr and am pleased that there are more female comics.”

Asked what advice he had for aspiring comics, Tom continued: "It's much harder to for kids today because you only have a few minutes to prove yourself at comedy clubs, compared to the hour or so you could get when I was starting out.

"My advice would be to get out to as many clubs as you can, and be prepared to work hard."