TRIBUTES have been paid to Only Fools And Horses star John Challis whose death was announced at the weekend.

John who was patron of Lizard Lifeboat, died from cancer at the age of 79, his family has said.

Posting on its Facebook page Lizard lifeboat station said: "All at The Lizard RNLI Lifeboat Station were so very sad to hear of the passing of our great friend John Challis. Our thoughts and prayers are with John's family and friends at this very sad time."

Commenting on the post Johnathan Kirkland said: "He was a proper gent. Met him when he visited during the build and at the opening ceremony. Really approachable chap. Sad news."

While Mark Hodson said: "Had the pleasure of meeting John at The Lizard Lifeboat Station, absolute gentleman, will be sadly missed."

John Challis was best-known for his portrayal of unscrupulous second-hand car dealer Boycie in the beloved sitcom, alongside Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

A statement from his family to the PA news agency said: “It is with heavy hearts that we bring you such sad news.”Our dear friend and yours, John Challis, has died peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer.

“He will always be loved for being ‘Boycie’ and leaves a great legacy of work that will continue to bring pleasure and smiles for many years to come.

“Please respect the privacy of John’s family and friends at this difficult time, and be assured that in the future there will be an occasion to celebrate John’s life – when everyone will be welcome to come along.”

'Boycie' was also at the forefront of the Lizard Lifeboat appeal back in 2009 when he was pictured reading the Packet which was the official media partner in the £2.7m campaign.

His visit to the lifeboat station at Kilcobben Cove was timed to coincide with his 67th birthday and was arranged by his wife, Carol as a surprise.

She knew it had been John's lifelong ambition to visit The Lizard lifeboat in particular, and to support the work of the volunteers. She agreed on his behalf that he would become an ambassador for the new appeal but he knew nothing of the tie-up until he was greeted by RNLI coxswain Phil Burgess.

Once in the lifeboat station, Phil asked him if he would be willing to support the appeal and even went out on the lifeboat.

At the time he spoke of his delight at supporting the new appeal, saying: “I have literally been blown away today. It has always been my ambition to launch down the slipway on exercise and today - my 67th birthday - this has become a reality.”

He described himself as “honoured and thrilled” to the part of the appeal, concluding his speech by saying: “I hope today will be the start of a very happy relationship between the RNLI and me. I look forward to being closely involved with The Lizard lifeboat station in particular and I'm am glad my wife volunteered my services.”

More recently he was involved in the Jam First Twitter campaign.

Boycie, a cigar-smoking businessman with a mocking laugh, was married to the feisty Marlene – played by Sue Holderness – and regularly butted heads with Sir David’s Del Boy.

Holderness said in a statement: “Marlene without Boycie – it’s unthinkable. John Challis was my partner on screen and stage for 36 years and my beloved friend. R.I.P. darling John. I will miss you every day.”

Challis was born in Bristol but moved to south-east London when he was one.
He attended the state boarding Ottershaw School near Woking, Surrey, and worked as a trainee estate agent before becoming a professional actor.

Early roles included gangster drama Big Breadwinner Hog in 1969 and a recurring role on Z-Cars as Sergeant Culshaw between 1971 and 1975.

Challis played Terrance Aubrey Boyce in Only Fools And Horses from 1981 to 2003, as well as in Boycie-focused spin-off show The Green Green Grass.

His family have requested that instead of flowers, donations are made to his favoured animal charities – Cuan Wildlife Rescue, Tusk and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Their statement added: “As Boycie would have said… you know it makes sense!”