FORMER BBC Radio Solent presenter Richard Cartridge has died after a short illness - just weeks after retiring from the airwaves.

Richard, one of the station's longest-serving presenters, was renowned for his silky smooth delivery and was a firm favourite with listeners across the south.

He was also a former Daily Echo columnist and an accomplished singer.

Radio Solent tweeted: "We are deeply sad to announce that our dear friend Richard Cartridge has passed away following a short illness.

"Richard entertained the south on-air for over 46 years. Thank you Rich."

Fellow presented Jon Cuthill described him as "the kindest, tallest, silliest man I ever knew", adding: "Rest easy you lovely, lovely man."

In other tributes he was described as "the most generous and warmed-hearted man in radio" whose "iconic" voice would never be forgotten."

BBC South Today anchorwoman Sally Taylor said he was "lovely, funny and kind".

Sports presenter Mike Bushell, who appears on BBC Breakfast, added: "One of the greats is gone. He was one of my mentors and inspirations when I first started at the BBC."

Richard, 72, began broadcasting for Radio Solent in the 1970s and referred to the station as his spiritual home. He retired in June.

In 2005 he suffered a personal tragedy when his son was found dead outside his home.

James Cartridge had just returned from work when he died.The body of the 29-year-old chef, originally from Eastleigh, was discovered lying at the bottom of steps leading up to his flat in Lyme Regis, Dorset.

James was the middle child of three from Richard's first marriage to Carol.

The presenter also had two younger children from his second marriage to former Meridian TV presenter Jane Wyatt. The couple later split up.

In 2010 Richard briefly left Radio Solent after falling victim to a cull of presenters.

A petition demanding his reinstatement was backed by New Forest councillor Les Puttock, PR chief Gill Gould of Carswell Gould, and West End councillor Tony Noyce, who called him the “best presenter Radio Solent has had”.

In 2013 Richard revealed he had fought - and won - a battle with mental illness.

He was unaware he was suffering from bipolar disorder, which is characterised by severe mood swings, until around 1997, when he and his second wife separated.

Speaking to the Daily Echo he described the impact of the terrorist attacks launched on September 11 2001.

Richard found himself breaking the news of what had happened live on his Radio Solent show and scrambling to find out what was happening and relay it to his listeners.

He was later treated at the Royal South Hants Hospital, with a combination of talking therapy and drugs, which turned out to be his saviour.

“They were absolutely wonderful and so understanding," he said.