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Nicholas Parsons dies aged 96 after short illness

TV and radio presenter Nicholas Parsons has died at the age of 96, his agent has confirmed.

The Just a Minute host passed away following a short illness according to his representation.

Nicholas Parsons, radio and television presenter, photographed at the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival on April 9, 2016 in Oxford, England. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

A statement released by his agent Jean Diamond on behalf of his family read: "Nicholas passed away in the early hours of the 28th of January after a short illness at the age of 96.

"He was with his beloved family who will miss him enormously and who wish to thank the wonderful staff at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital."

Television personality Nicholas Parsons pictured at his Hampstead Cottage, 19th December 1978. (Photo by Mike Maloney/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

The radio presenter was born Christopher Nicholas Parsons on 10 October 1926 in Grantham, Lincolnshire.

After studying at St Paul’s School in London, he headed to Clydebank as an apprentice engineer, despite his own hopes of becoming an actor.

But his impressions were featured in a radio show and, following performances with amateur concert parties after the Second World War, he moved into acting – working in rep at Bromley in Kent.

Comic roles proved to be a speciality and he became resident comedian at the Windmill Theatre in London after working on the cabaret circuit in the 1950s.

Nicholas Parsons hosted ITV's 'Sale of the Century'. (Photo by Peter Case/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

He found TV fame appearing with comic Arthur Haynes in his ITV show in the early 1960s, and he was also a regular on The Benny Hill Show.

Parsons is best known for hosting BBC Radio 4 comedy panel game Just a Minute from its first broadcast in December 1967, having missed the show for only the second time last summer.

His successful presenting career also extended into TV quiz Sale of the Century on ITV.

Entertainer Nicholas Parsons is made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II during an Investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, Berkshire.

Parsons was awarded a CBE in December 2013 for his charitable work, having had a long association with the Grand Order of Water Rats and the Lord’s Taverners, for which he has served as president.

Tributes poured in for the broadcasting veteran upon the news of his passing, with BBC Radio 4's Nick Robinson sharing: "Without hesitation, deviation or repetition I’d like to say that Nicholas Parsons was a broadcasting giant who proved that the straight man could be the real star of comedy. Will be hugely missed by all who work at & love @BBCRadio4."

While actor Stephen Fry added: "Oh no. Nicholas Parsons gone? He ruled Just a Minute for Just a Lifetime. A stunning achievement: never scripted, always immaculate. From comedian's sidekick to great institution, via Sale of the Century & much more. Unrivalled continuity, professionalism & commitment. Farewell x."

"I saw Nicholas Parsons last summer at an event in honour of Oscar Wilde hosted by his close friend @GylesB1. Nicholas was in a wheelchair after being unwell, and was complaining that "I have had to cancel a speaking event in Dubai," which I found amazing. #RIPMrP," added Jeremy Vine.

Just a Minute regular Josie Long wrote: "RIP dear Nicholas Parsons. A lovely witty man who was always so kind to me."

Parsons is survived by his wife Ann and two children from his first marriage to Denise Bryer.

With additional reporting by PA.