The family of Steve Akrigg – one of Skipton’s best-known personalities – have paid tribute to the “larger than life” character who died on Christmas Day.

They say he was a man who evoked smiles galore from far and wide.

“‘Larger than life character’ can sometimes figure as an over-played tribute, but Steve measured up to that glowing pundit and more besides,” they added.

He was known to many as Custer of Custers Last Band and in the 80s, they freely offered their services to Skipton Gala becoming a regular feature in the parade.

Always keeping the crowds entertained, the band was part of the gala for 27 years and was in demand at many other local venues.

“It was Steve’s showmanship and ability to communicate, which brought a smile to all and sundry,” said his family.

Born in Skipton, he attended Water Street and Aireville Schools before becoming an apprentice plumber and heating engineer at GH Mason on High Street, Skipton. Not comfortable with the regimented workplace, he soon opted for a self-employed plumbing role, prior to him setting up a laundrette and dry cleaners business on Brougham Street.

Always keen for a new challenge, he then bought and ran wedding cars as a sideline and expanded the laundry business to an industrial level.

As a descendent of a farming family, Steve eventually returned to his roots and moved to Yellison Farm at Carleton, initially keeping poultry and horses, while extending his energies into house construction.

It was at Yellison he was able to make an impressive mark on the wider community as he became successful in milking goats and making award-winning cheeses. He appeared on the television programme The Dales, where he demonstrated his expertise and colourful character.

Steve was a keen sports enthusiast – his involvement ranging from cycling to rugby – and made many good friends along the way.

Steve battled against his illness with remarkable cheerfulness and fortitude and expressed profound gratitude to his wonderful care at Airedale General Hospital and Manorlands.

Reflecting his popularity, there was a huge gathering at his funeral and farewell where several heartfelt tributes were heard.

“Steve brought many a smile to this area,” said the family. “Skipton and district has lost a great friend and character.”

He will be sadly missed by friends and his family, Michael, Cathrine, Joss, Jessica and Jonathan.