A LIFELONG showman who stole the nation’s hearts on X Factor at the age of 82 has died.

William Hooper, of Imperial Court, Clacton, died on Thursday after a short battle with illness, just two weeks before his 89th birthday.

Born and bred in Enfield, William left school at 14 and made a living doing a variety of different jobs, including fixing trucks and working at a school.

But his passion was always entertainment.

From a young age he took part in pantomimes and summer shows, enjoying acting and singing.

Nephew Ron Barnes said: “He has been an entertainer all his life.

“He used to do all kinds of shows and even wrote his own music. He loved it.

“It was his real passion. He used to do performances for elderly residents around Clacton, especially at Christmas.

“We started doing guitar lessons together and he kept that up until about a month ago.

“He was always very active and played bowls and did keep-fit classes too.”

William moved to Clacton 13 years ago to spend his retirement by the sea.

He finally found fame in 2009 after deciding to audition for TV talent show X Factor – dazzling the judges and winning the hearts of the nation in the process.

Simon Cowell clicked his fingers along to William’s audition rendition of Frank Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me, and the elderly crooner beat more than 200,000 other hopefuls to make it through to the show’s bootcamp stage.

Ron said: “He decided he was going to go for it and I think it was one of the best experiences of his life. He did brilliantly and people loved him.”

He added: “He was a wonderful man, a real character and will be deeply missed by those who knew him.

"It was a very sad day when we lost him, but I think he will be singing, dancing and putting on a show upstairs right now.”