ACTOR Christopher Biggins has paid tribute to his father Bill, a former antiques dealer and garage proprietor and much-loved Salisbury character, who died on Saturday.

“He was a real eccentric and a great father,” said the star,61, as he travelled up from Plymouth, where he is appearing in pantomime.

“He and my mother Pam worked very, very hard to send me to a private school and they supported me during my early career at Salisbury Rep, when I was on £2 a week.

“Every time they came to see me in a play, there was half the house on the stage because I used to borrow the chairs and tables to use as props.

“They also supported me very heavily when I was at the Bristol Old Vic.

“My father had a great personality, an amazing sense of humour, and loved people. If I got any part of my character from him, it was his love of life and love of people.

“He was so popular in the local community, and he could turn his hand to anything.”

Bill Biggins, who was 81, was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, but continued running a bric-a-brac business from his lock-up in Greencroft Street.

“He was still running around at 100mph and not letting anything get on top of him,” said his younger son Sean, 43, who lives in Salisbury.

“But a few weeks ago things started to deteriorate rapidly, and last week he was admitted to Salisbury Hospice.”

Mr Biggins, who was born in Oldham, met his wife during RAF service in Bath, and they later moved to Salisbury where he had a garage, Middleton Motors.

He also had a spell running an antiques shop in Castle Street, then worked in security for the MoD. Later he went into the bric-a-brac business in Pennyfarthing Street, followed by a move to Winchester Street. “He sort of retired but he couldn’t leave it alone, and got himself a lock-up,” said Sean.

“He loved the bric-a-brac business,” said Christopher. “It was his life. He could mend watches, and he loved tinkering with them. He also loved meeting the antique dealers who used to come in and rummage round.

“I was so pleased last year when we were able to appear on Cash In The Attic together, and he loved doing it.”

Christopher knew the end was near when he went on stage – he is playing the Widow Twankey in Aladdin - on Saturday evening.

“I was feeling pretty grim,” he said. He was not told of his father’s death until the performance ended. “But I knew he had gone,” he said.

The brothers both asked to record their appreciation of the staff at Salisbury District Hospital’s Pembroke Suite and at the hospice.

The funeral service, at Salisbury Crematorium at noon on Monday, January 4, will be conducted by the Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Peter Delaney.

Christopher said: “Anybody who knew my father will be very welcome. We will give him a good send-off.”