TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the leading men of musical theatre in Ryedale.

John Raine died at York Hospital on Sunday, aged 79.

Born in Norton, John had a love of music from an early age joining Norton Methodist Church Choir at the age of nine.

After leaving school he went to York Commercial College to study before going into banking.

However he continued with his singing at Pickering Musical Society, where he quickly made a name for himself playing the roles of Danillo in The Merry Widow, and Robert Browning in Robert and Elizabeth. John was involved in more than 20 shows, including pantomimes, and took the lead in many of his roles.

In 1973 he appeared as the Prince where he met his wife, Angela Kirkham, who was playing the leading role.

The couple were married two years later in Malton and went on to have two daughters, Pippa and Samantha.

In 1974 John joined Malton and Norton Amateur Operatics Society, taking on the first of many leads in The Sound of Music in what would be the first of many lead roles for the society.

He was to repeat this role in 1982, playing alongside Angela and taking on many other roles including The Merry Widow, Kismet, South Pacific and Brigadoon.

Angela, who runs Kirkham Henry Performing Arts Centre, in Malton, said in later life John had been forced to retire from the stage due to ill health, but continued to support young talent.

“Already I have had so many messages of support, particularly from men were inspired and encouraged by John,” she said.

“It is a bit overwhelming but wonderful for his girls to hear and such a massive comfort.

“John was also so supportive of Sam and Pippa and their achievements - he was the proudest dad in the world.”

Angela added: “John was always there for me and he was my soulmate, I miss him dearly.”

John’s funeral arrangements have yet to be confirmed.