ECCENTRIC actress and comedienne Beryl Reid died yesterday at the age of 76.

She was born in Hereford, of Scots parents, and was brought up in Manchester, but was known to boast of her Scots connections.

At Hogmanay 1978 she stayed ``on the wagon'' because she was spending New Year's Day rehearsing her role in the television thriller Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy alongside Sir Alec Guinness.

Reid was twice married and divorced because of her commitment to work.

She thought nothing of shocking people with her remarks on sex. She admitted to numerous affairs. She also claimed to wear specially made perfume called Easy Virtue.

One of her starring roles on film was playing the lead of a lesbian in the The Killing of Sister George, alongside Susannah York. The film was banned by many local authorities at the time.

One one occasion when friends called unexpectedly at her home and she did not feel like being sociable, she sent them quickly on their way by telling them: ``Oh, I'm terribly sorry I can't ask you in because I'm in bed with someone I don't know terribly well.''

Reid, who picked up an OBE in 1986, believed life was for living and loved to quaff champagne, which she called toff's lemonade.

Her passion in life was making people laugh, a profession she described as ``the longest apprenticeship in the world''.

She left home at 16 to work in a shop, a job she soon became bored with, and decided to take the first tentative step towards stage stardom.

During her lunch break she went for an audition for a summer season at Bridlington, got the job, and never looked back.

``I have been a bit of a girl,'' she liked to say.

Reid's talent for changing accents helped make her name in the fifties radio show Educating Archie where she played the ghastly schoolgirl Monica, and Brummie Marlene.

Throughout her career she suffered from dyslexia and had to learn her lines through constant vocal repetition.

In 1983 she won the Bafta best actress award for her part in Smiley's People. In 1991 she won the lifetime achievement award at the British Comedy Awards.

Paying tribute actor Ian Bannen, who starred alongside Reid with Sir Alec in the TV version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, said: ``She was absolutely wonderful to work with. She will leave an enormous hole in the British theatre. She was so warm - warmer than practically any actress I have ever met.''

Dame Vera Lynn said: ``I was always fascinated by her work. She was somebody who was so completely different, and a terribly funny lady.''