FRIENDS of the late landlord of the Black Swan Inn in Peasholme Green have spoken of their 'devastation' following the death of Andy Cross from bowel cancer.

Mr Cross won accolades for turning round the 15th-century inn following its closure into a vibrant pub and venue since he took over in 2008.

His partner Maggie Anderton said she felt totally lost and bewildered since losing him to the disease. "Andy was the very best thing that ever happened to me.

York Press:

"We were together for six years and he was the cleverest, most generous and loving man I ever met. We called ourselves partners in crime.

"Andy would talk to anyone and made hundreds of friends among the customers, people who stayed in our rooms and the groups who use the Black Swan. So many people feel devastated by his death and we have been swamped with messages. It will never be the same without him. He's left a big hole.

"We are having a huge party at the pub after his funeral. Andy and I discussed it and this is what he wanted."

She plans to continue with the half-timbered pub's busy calendar of events as a live music and comedy venue, restaurant and rooms.

The Black Swan Folk Club had become homeless when the inn closed prior to Mr Cross's arrival nine years ago.

Paying tribute, Roland Walls, the club organiser, said: "When the pub doors abruptly closed, making the folk club homeless in the process in 2008. Andy was asked to take it on. He had spent most of his adult life in the pub trade and had a reputation for turning failing businesses around. He certainly achieved that at the Black Swan Inn.

"He said he was happy to welcome back our club and when just a few weeks later we were voted Folk Club of the Year in the BBC Folk Awards, Andy was delighted and insisted on having our trophy on permanent display on the premises.

"A very successful Folk Weekend later that year cemented our standing and we enjoyed a close and mutually beneficial relationship ever since."

York CAMRA members also appreciated Mr Cross' real ale and well-run pub. "He was a nice guy who pulled back this historic inn from being run down and preserved it, served good ale and did everything CAMRA could want," said regional director Kevin Keaveny. "He was a breath of fresh air and did a fantastic job."

Close friend Phil Nixon, a building and roofing contractor, who worked on the Black Swan's refurbishment, said: "From the moment I met Andy we were best pals.

"He was the best mate I ever had. We went on many holiday togethers and joked that we were like an old married couple. I am devastated that he has gone.

"When I was ill he came round with food and gifts for me, even though he had cancer."

Mr Cross was diagnosed with bowel cancer two years ago. Carol Brown, who works in the bar, said: "People would never have known he was ill when they came here, he didn't make a fuss. He was my boss, I loved him to bits and I miss him"

He worked in around 45 pubs during his career, starting in Leeds before moving to Harrogate, Bedale and York.

Mr Cross leaves two daughters, Louisa and Francesca and grandchildren Jake and Ethan.

The funeral will be held at York Crematorium on Wednesday, July 5 at 3pm, followed by a wake at the Black Swan Inn.

His family requests no flowers, but donations to Bowel Cancer UK and the oncology ward at York Hospital.