BOURNEMOUTH newsagent and musician, Rex Hardy Biles, has died at the age of 79.

Rex, so named because he was born in the King's coronation year, was a native of Dorset. His grandmother, on his father's side, had links to the Hardy family of Dorchester.

He grew up in Upper Parkstone, attending St Paul's Preparatory School and then the Collegiate School in Westbourne.

"My father joined the family news agency business which traded in Ashley Road and, following a move in the late 1960s, in Seamoor Road, Westbourne," said Gerald Biles, one of his sons.

Rex played an active role in the wider business community, serving as president of the Westbourne Chamber of Trade and following his father's retirement, he joined the wholesale firm of H.W.Seitz and Sons. A subsequent merger with Thunder and Clayden created Bournemouth Area News Distribution which was in turn acquired by Surridge Dawson. He remained with the business throughout these changes, eventually assuming the role of marketing manager, until his retirement in 2002.

"Outside of his business and professional life, my father found much pleasure, having learned to play the drums in his late teens, in the world of music and entertainment. Developing his playing experience as part of the pit orchestra for local operatic and musical societies, he went on to perform at such venues as the Winter Gardens and the Pavilion.

"He also spent a number of years leading the Rex Hardy Trio, providing dance music and cabaret for many of Bournemouth's best known hotels and often appeared on BBC Television Southampton," said Gerald.

David Medina, who also attended Collegiate School, knew Rex for about 50 years.

"He asked me to be a 'Front Man' and host the entertainment at the hotels during the summer season. I worked with him from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s. Rex's musical engagements expanded to five or six nights a week between Easter and late September. In the winter Rex was in demand at the many clubs in the area. He established a small entertainment agency providing dinner music, dancing, spot dance for prizes and cabaret, combing all for a fixed price," said David.

Former school friend Michael Neave, remained one of Rex's close friends, even though their career paths took different directions, up until his death.

Rex was widely read and widely travelled, visiting many parts of Europe as well as Russia, Canada and the United States. His sporting interests were diverse, embracing football, rugby, cricket and golf. His other major passion was horseracing and he boasted an impressive knowledge of runners, riders and racecourses.

In the words of one of his many friends, " he was a true gentleman with a great sense of humour and that cheerful twinkle in his eye".

Rex passed away on July 25. He is survived by his two sons and two grandchildren.