‘I DON’’T think anyone will ever fill his shoes.’

Those were the words used to describe popular teacher Tony Tears, who died suddenly at the age of 75.

Tony had been feeling unwell but he and his wife Sally had blamed it on a trapped nerve.

After feeling better, Tony took some painkillers and went to have a lie down at his home in Rockliffe.

Sally heard a bang and discovered her husband had sadly lost his life.

The cause of death was an aortic aneurysm, which the NHS describes as a bulge or swelling in the aorta, the main blood vessel that runs from the heart down through the chest and tummy.

He had no other health complications, leaving his family in complete shock.

Mr Tears grew up in Carlisle and was viewed as a child prodigy from a young age.

At the age of four he started playing the piano and by 13 he achieved grade eight.

He joined the choristers at Carlisle Cathedral at an early age, before progressing to head chorister. He also had lessons with the prestigious Manchester Northern Dance Orchestra.

He got the job as the lead tenor at 16 for Geraldo and performed on the ‘Mecca circuit’ where he met his wife. His music career saw him playing side-by-side with big names of the era such as Joe Loss and Nat Allen.

The couple moved back to Carlisle in 1976 and he went into teaching, with stints at Caldew School and Nelson Thomlinson School, before settling at William Howard School in 1997.

He spent 19 years there before he retired in 2016 and turned his hand to private music lessons. Mr Tears, referred to by pupils as ‘Mr T’, was also renowned for the success he brought to the school in the Carlisle Music Festival.

Paul Hemmingway, 64, who was head of music while Tony taught at William Howard School between 1991 and 2016, said: “He has left a big hole in this part of the county musically.

“I don’t think anyone will ever fill his shoes. He was an absolutely fabulous, super person. He was a very patient man who was wonderful at his job.

“He was a first-class musician and a first-class teacher. He was the most passionate man about teaching musical instruments. He wanted everyone to be the absolute best they could.

“He somehow taught exactly what children wanted to be taught. He knew what their interests were and he could teach to it. He was an inspiration to so many people.”

Lorraine Hughes, who worked with Tony at William Howard School for the whole duration of his time there, serving as headteacher for the last six years, said: “He was an exceptional musician and he was incredible to young people. He was such a huge part of our school and his contribution was huge. He was part of the music provision, which was a great team of staff, but he was certainly a key part.

“He was an inspirational musician to lots of young people and he really taught that love of music.

“The standards he got from young people were incredibly high. Music was definitely his love. He was a quiet man but he put so much into his work.”