Actor Simon Shelton Barnes, who played the role of Tinky Winky in Teletubbies, has died at the age of 52.
The father of three originally trained as a dancer and choreographer but later found fame as Tinky Winky after replacing the original actor, Dave Thompson.
His cause of death is yet to be revealed but his children took to Facebook to post tributes in the wake of his passing.
His daughter Lydia Barnes posted a message to Facebook on Jan. 21. She wrote: “I love you so much Dad… always have, always will. The most beautiful man in the world.”
Barnes’ son Henry wrote: “I lost my lovely dad on Wednesday, he was the kindest and most gentle man I knew and I love him more than anything!!!!”
Henry’s post continued: “I always used to be embarrassed as a child that he was a dancer and an actor but now I couldn’t be more proud! He is in a better place now and I know he wouldn’t want me to be sad, so I’m going to live my life the way he would want me to.”
Since the news was announced, tributes have poured in from family and cast members.
Barnes’ niece Emily Atack, who starred in The Inbetweeners, posted a photo of her uncle on Instagram, writing, “My wonderful uncle Simon Barnes has been taken from us all so suddenly. The kindest and most talented man you could ever wish to meet. Loved by all who knew him, and will be forever. X”
Co-star John Simmit, who appeared alongside him as green Tellytubby Dipsy, posted a photo of the actors.
He wrote: “What a week! RIP Simon Shelton aka Tinky Winky: remembering the many good times. Rest easy.”
What a week ! RIP Simon Shelton aka Tinky Winky : remembering the many good times. Rest easy pic.twitter.com/4uyJDBoJdO
— John Simmit (@JohnSimmit) January 22, 2018
Simmit added: “Lots of messaging between cast and crew as we became a tight bunch over six years on location. We’ll give him an appropriate send off in a couple of weeks.”
Lots of messaging between cast & crew as we became a tight bunch over 6 years on location. We'll give him an appropriate send off in a couple of weeks. Thanks for asking
— John Simmit (@JohnSimmit) January 22, 2018
Teletubbies’ official Twitter account tweeted: “Very sad to hear that actor Simon Shelton, who played Tinky Winky in the late ’90s, has sadly passed away. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Big hugs.”
Very sad to hear that actor Simon Shelton, who played Tinky Winky in the late 90’s, has sadly passed away. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Big hugs. pic.twitter.com/nBofxSYFLd
— Teletubbies (@TeletubbiesHQ) January 23, 2018
Another tribute came from Paul McCartney’s brother Mike McGear, a second cousin of Barnes’ former wife, Emma.
“So sad to hear about Si. He was a luvly lad..and will be dancing along Uncle Bills bar, knocking Mum&Dad, Milly&Ginny, Mike &Betts drinks off, as we talk! Luv to U & kids from me & mine X,” he wrote.
Fans of the show took to Twitter to share their condolences.
I just want to pay my respects today for the man who was behind the costume of Tinky Winky. I actually can't believe he passed this soon at the age of 52…
Teletubbies is part of what made my childhood so special, and I just want to thank him for that.
RIP, Simon Shelton. pic.twitter.com/S3AGdlappG
— Matt (@KnapfordEngine) January 23, 2018
Sad to hear that Simon Shelton, the guy who played Tinky Winky has died. Had a great childhood watching the Teletubbies.
May he Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/Nckg7NuHEi
— empty cake container (@CATaclysmalLife) January 23, 2018
right not many people know this but when i was little i literally couldn't sleep without my tinky winky teddy, so this is actually heartbreaking, literally was my childhood! rest easy man, thanks for the memories x https://t.co/dazVv7h5eo
— Jordan ✌🏼🎥 (@jordans_parker) January 23, 2018
In primary school I used to tell other kids that my dad was the man in the Tinky Winky costume so that they'd like me. It didn't work because, as we all know, Dipsy was the cool one because he had a fancy hat. It's a sad day.https://t.co/YyqfTGOlPr
— Jazza John (@JazzaJohn) January 23, 2018
Aw Tinky Winky was always my favourite. RIP to this chap, how terribly sad https://t.co/0ZHMWumPsA
— carpe noctem (@carpenoctem1234) January 23, 2018
This was kinda a jokey video but in all seriousness, this lil guy was a big part of my childhood, rest in peace Simon Shelton & Tinky Winky 💜 pic.twitter.com/Lb3o0nxsLQ
— Love, Sam (@mylastnametho) January 23, 2018
— Ian Brannan (@ianbrannan) January 23, 2018
RIP Tinky Winky 😭 pic.twitter.com/CneeFhTtF3
— ikram marki (@ikramarki) January 23, 2018
Barnes previously spoke about his role as Tinky Winky, saying that he believes the Teletubbies “were a bit like the Beatles.”
“I started my career as a ballet dancer and had just started working as a choreographer,” he said. “I thought it was a bit of a risky move but it certainly paid off. We used to receive a lot of fan mail from kids and parents. I suppose we were a bit like the Beatles or the Take That of children’s television.”
Barnes portrayed the character for 14 episodes between 1998-2001 after Thompson was fired in 1997.