A former artist who has been labelled as a unique character by his friends has died.

Tony Keegan, who was aged 64 and known to many as 'Spike', became a fixture in Lyme Regis 20 years ago when he would sit on the esplanade in his free time painting and selling pebbles.

It revealed the beginnings of a precocious and natural artistic talent, which saw Tony start painting in every spare hour he had, and saw him produce wittily modelled tobacco tins, paper mache masks and string puppets.

Early years in a London orphanage taught Tony an amazing sense of independence and survival, whilst a naturally brilliant mind steered him through a life that could have crushed a lesser man.

At thirteen, Tony took to the streets of London and led a life close to the edge of society.

Those closest to Tony referred to it as a 'Dickensian' life, which saw him mix with dubious characters, something which Tony was said to never regret, as his experiences were to become the source of rich anecdote and poetry in later life.

Before moving to Lyme, Tony spent time working in London clubs, then spent a time as a sous chef in various London Hotels and restaurants, followed by a period in Japan.

Despite his tough background, Tony possessed distinctly old fashioned morals, with debts always honoured, handouts refused and diligent hard work his watchword.

One of Tony's closest friends, Harriet Cunningham, said that like all unique individuals, Tony was never all sweetness and light, with his grumpiness being balanced by a wicked sense of humour.

He also loved to demonstrate his Japanese martial arts techniques to anyone who'd watch.

Tony moved from Lyme Regis to Bridport four years ago, where he became a much-loved member of the local mental health group, Harmony.

Harriet said: "A great number of people counted Tony their friend and though his passing will create an unbreachable gap, all of us will feel privileged to be counted among those lucky enough to have known such a uniquely memorable individual."

Tony leaves behind no next of kin, with arrangements for his funeral being handled by Harriet.

The funeral for will be held at Weymouth Crematorium on Thursday, October 11 at 10.45am.

A celebration of Tony's life will be held afterwards at the Magna Housing Community Hall, Flaxhayes, St Swithins Road, Bridport, DT6 5DT from midday.

Everyone is welcome to attend, and invited to bring any art of his to show.

Contributions will be put towards a public bench in his memory.

If you would like to donate but cannot attend, you can contact Harriet on 07796 511284.