STAFF Sergeant Thomas McKay, the district gunner who fired the One O'Clock Gun from Edinburgh Castle for nearly 26 years, has died of cancer, aged 60.

The father-of-three, who died yesterday at his home in Dunfermline, Fife, had carried out his role - for which he became known as Tam the Gun - until he fell ill this year.

His death comes the year after he married his wife Joyce in Bergen, Norway.

Staff SergeantMcKay's firing of the cannon at the same time every day became a popular tourist attraction.

Major Andy Jackson, deputy chief of staff at the castle's 52 Infantry Brigade, said: "Tam will be sadly missed by all members of the military community and the staff of Historic Scotland in Edinburgh Castle. He was a true character and he and his gun will remain a cherished memory of many tourists' trips to Edinburgh. Our thoughts are with Joyce and his son and two daughters."

The gunner, wrote a book about his experiences, entitled What Time Does the One O'Clock Gun Fire - a question hewas frequently asked by tourists. Proceeds went to the Army Benevolent Fund.

He had items named after him including Tam's Dram, a whisky sold in the castle. He helped create the One O'Clock Gun exhibition as well as firing the cannon on the BBC's Hogmanay Show. The staff sergeant worked at the EdinburghMilitary Tattoo every August and in 1999 became an MBE for services to the Territorial Army.

An Army spokeswoman said he had expected to return to his job after he took leave as gunner on January 27.