STARS paid tribute to a "great intellect" yesterday after the family of Sir Clement Freud announced his death.
The celebrated writer, broadcaster and former Liberal MP died at his desk at home in London yesterday, nine days short of his 85th birthday.
Comedians Stephen Fry and Tony Hawks, who appeared with him on BBC Radio 4's Just A Minute, responded with sadness, with Hawks describing him as a "charming and wonderful man" of "great intellect".
Sir Clement was a grandson of psychologist Sigmund Freud. His five children include PR businessman Matthew Freud and TV presenter Emma Freud.
He worked as an apprentice cook at the Dorchester Hotel in London before joining the Royal Ulster Rifles during the Second World War, and first became a household name in the 1960s via a series of dog food adverts.
His role launched him on a long career as a television and radio personality, helping him become a stalwart on Just A Minute and feature on shows including Have I Got News For You.
Fry said: "
I was at first very afraid of him – a lot of people were. There were stories that he was immensely grouchy; he was rude sometimes to people who asked for autographs. I never experienced that side of him.
"Another element to him which perhaps should not go unmentioned is his raffishness, his air of disreputability. During the 1950s and 1960s, was a real Soho figure, he knew all the girls of easy virtue, the pimps, the racetrack tipsters and, of course, the restaurateurs, which is where he learned his business as a chef."
Sir Clement, whose brother is the painter Lucian Freud, was also a celebrated food, sport and comment journalist.
His political career began in 1973, when he won the Isle of Ely constituency for the Liberals. He transferred to North East Cambridgeshire after boundary changes, but lost the seat in 1987. He was knighted the same year.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "
I first met Sir Clement more than 30 years ago when he was rector of Dundee University and I was rector of the University of Edinburgh.
"I was proud to have known him."
Sir Clement was also rector of St Andrews University, from 2002-5.
William Berry, senior governor of the University Court during those years, said: "He was a distinguished lord rector."