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visited Titanic Belfast in August 2013 and unexpectedly met with actress Libby Smyth, a member of Titanic Belfast’s Visitor Experience team

Tributes have been paid to Northern Irish actor James Ellis who died in Lincoln on Saturday, one week short of his 83rd birthday.

He began his acting career in 1952 at Belfast’s Group Theatre before moving to England in the early 1960s.

His first big break came when he was cast as Bert Lynch in police drama Z-Cars, which ran from 1962 to 1978.

The Belfast-born actor also starred in programmes including Doctor Who, In Sickness And In Health, Ballykissangel and Only Fools And Horses.

Martin Lynch, who had known Mr Ellis for more than 25 years, said: “His was the first Belfast accent that people in the UK regularly heard in their lives – ever.

“This opened the gates for all kinds of accents after that. I have spoken to some of the actors who went across [to England] and they said they looked at Jimmy Ellis and said ‘if he can do it, we can do it’.”

Ulster-born actor Adrian Dunbar told the BBC that he had known Jimmy Ellis as a friend and a companion for many years. “He was a wonderful actor and a warm and generous man,” he said. “He blazed a trail for many actors in Northern Ireland.”

Top storyteller and a great ambassador

He received an honorary doctorate for services to the performing arts from Queen’s University in 2008.

Jimmy Ellis with fellow Northern Ireland actor James Nesbitt at the unveiling of a key stone on the site of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast in 2009
Jimmy Ellis with fellow Northern Ireland actor James Nesbitt at the unveiling of a key stone on the site of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast in 2009

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