TONY Berry — lead singer with the Houghton Weavers and a man who “helped change the face of folk music” — has died at his Westhoughton home after a brave battle against cancer.

Tony was 69 and 18 months ago he told his fellow Weavers that he had pancreatic cancer and just a year to live.

He treated the devastating news, however, as he had tackled all his career: smiling through and singing to please the group’s many fans around the UK and across the world.

“He still did as many concerts as he could throughout his illness,” stated David Littler, who helped co-found the group more than 40 years ago.

Tony, David, David’s brother Dennis, John Oliver and Norman Prince founded the folk group, originally named the Westhoughton Weavers. They later dropped the “West” as being too long.

After being invited to take part in a BBC talent show, they were given their own TV regional show “Sit Thi Deawn” which ran to six series. By this time, Tony, David, Dennis and Norman were the basis of the group.

This kickstarted a career which later saw changes to the line-up and extensive touring, success and winning fans all over the world – from America, Canada and Bahrain to Belgium, Australia and Germany. They made more than 30 albums and featured iconic songs including perennial favourites like “The Blackpool Belle”.

David explained how the Weavers, with their feelgood songs and banter, brought folk music to a wider audience.

“Tony and the group helped change the face of folk music,” he said. “We had a meteoric rise and I think the Weavers proved to be the best ambassadors for folk music.

“Tony’s wonderful voice and warm personality delighted so many people.”

His trademark pure voice was silenced by throat cancer in 2014 but he came back to continue the group’s blend of music and laughter that Weavers’ fans loved.

David added that Tony was “like a brother” to him and he would miss him terribly. The Weavers would continue and would honour booked dates – “what better way would there be to honour Tony’s memory?” stated David.

Tony leaves a wife, Andrea, three children, Amy, Tom and Jack and a grand-daughter, Thea.