TRIBUTES have been paid to a well-known Lakeland steam enthusiast and ‘gentle giant’.

Dick Ransome, cousin of Swallows and Amazons author Arthur Ransome, died in Furness General Hospital on December 28.

The 70-year-old, who lived in Torver, near Coniston, with wife Susan, loved steam engines and spent more than 20 years restoring his 1914 Marshall Compund Steam Roller, which he took to many events and traction rallies.

His wife of nearly 30 years said: “He got his first steam engine in the 1960s and everyone thought he was mad when he bought it, even his mother. “But he loved it, and was one of those who started the Cumbria Steam Gathering.

“He was just such a character. The tales he could tell. He had a vast know- ledge of such a broad range of sub-jects. We will miss him dearly.”

Alex Sharphouse, of Old Hall Farm, Bouth, knew Mr Ransome for around 15 years, and said you could ‘not meet a nicer guy’.

“We met because I had a passion for steam engines and, after buying my first steam roller, I just knocked on his door one day, because I knew of his interest,” he said.

“He was a mine of information. We became great friends. He used to make me laugh with his funny sayings and ways, and everyone who knew him would always have a funny story about him.”

For more than 20 years, Mr Ran-some worked as chief engineer on the National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola, which saw him ferry a few famous faces, including John Major when he was Prime Minister.

Manager Peter Keen said: “He was a character who cared passionately for Gondola and who, even after years of retirement, was always on hand with advice and knowledge gleaned from his instrumental years of managing the yacht on Coniston Water.

“Our larger-than-life friend will be sorely missed. “His cheerful countenance, even in the face of bad health, always inspired anyone who knew him. It’s the end of an era.”

Mr Ransome’s funeral will be held today, at 2pm, in Torver, and is expected to attract scores of people. At the request of Mr Ransome’s wife, Mr Sharphouse will attend on a traction engine.

“I thought it was right because steam engines played such a large part of his life,” she said.

Mr Ransome also leaves behind a son, who lives in Carlisle.