TRIBUTES have been paid to Southampton grandad who played a key behind-the-scenes role at the city's former ice rink.

Chris Dempsey, a former chairman of Southampton Ice Dance and Figure Skating Club, has died aged 92.

He was elected to the committee in 1975 and was chairman for 15 years before becoming president, a post he held for a further 15 years.

Mr Dempsey painting scenery for ice shows until the ice rink closed in 1988.

Club treasurer Elaine Hooper said: "For those who remember the Christmas Ice Shows, he used his creative talents to produce the scenery and props and was noted for the huge backdrops that stretched almost the width of the ice.

"Chris was very conscientious in his Presidential duties and attended meetings and presided over the club events until ill health overtook him two years ago.

"But even then he maintained his interest by writing a Presidential address to be read out by the chairman at the annual meeting."

Southampton’s first ice rink, situated near the city's former speedway track, was destroyed during The Blitz in 1940 and rebuilt on the same site in 1952.

From 1936 it was the home of Southampton’s ice hockey team, the Vikings, and the Southampton Speed Skating Club. It also hosted ice dance and figure skating competitions.

In 1963 it was taken over by the Top Rank organisation and reopened in 1964 after a major facelift. Despite protests and petitions it closed down in 1988 and was replaced by housing.

Despite the closure club has remained a vibrant group, with members skating elsewhere.

Two years ago dozens of members past and present converged on Southampton to help Mr Dempsey and fellow pensioner Ron Bartley celebrate their 90th birthdays.

Mr Dempsey, who was born at Westfield Road, Southampton, on May 7, 1926, joined the club with his children, Karen and Beverley, while they were at school.

After lessons at the club costing seven shillings and sixpence each, Beverley became a star skater, representing Britain in international figure skating competitions, and is now a skating coach in Chicago.

Mr Dempsey joined the committee in the mid-1970s, becoming competition secretary in 1985.

Two years later the Bitterne grandfather began an eight-year stint as chairman and was later made life president.

His funeral will take place on June 7 at the Wessex Vale Crematorium, West End, at 1pm.