Tributes have been paid to Desmond "Des" McDaniel, who was a well-known community figure and worked at Islington Wine for 36 years.

Remembered for his kindness and friendship, Des died suddenly on Wednesday July 27, aged 71, at his home in Archway.

Des suffered from cancer for several years and lost his voice after a laryngotomy 11 years ago.

His sister, Ann Crouch, said: “Des is quite simply the nicest man in Islington, maybe the world.

"He never asked anything, he never complained even after he lost his voice. He just took it on board.

"He was so kind and caring and always had a smile on his face.”

Islington Gazette: Desmond McDaniel worked at Islington Wine for over 30 yearsDesmond McDaniel worked at Islington Wine for over 30 years (Image: Pamela Brown)

Born in Ireland, Des came to London with his family when he was six and he went to school in Muswell Hill.

He worked in retail for most of his life and began working at the off-license Islington Wine in Liverpool Road in the 1980s.

Desie Sheridan worked with him at the shop when she was a teenager, more than thirty years ago, and retained a lifelong friendship thereafter.

“He was a really, really good friend but I’d say almost he was like family," she said. “He was a very good person in the community. He never said a bad word to anybody ever and he was very, very kind. He’d see the best in people. He was funny as well; he had a funny personality.”

Islington Gazette: The Archway resident worked in retail for most of his lifeThe Archway resident worked in retail for most of his life (Image: Ann Crouch)

She remembers how he used to give little gifts to people, and how she finally took him to see Jersey Boys six weeks ago after having had it planned for many years.

Through Des, the off-license became the heart of the community and the place where people met, said Pamela Brown, a close friend.

“There was hardly a day went by where we didn’t text each other," she said. "He was one of my best friends. We’ve been friends for about 25 years. He was very special. It’ll never be the same because there was only one Des.”

She remembers how much Des loved music and that he was a Radio 4 “addict”. He was “old-fashioned”, according to Pamela, always wearing perfectly ironed shirts and offering her biscuits whenever she came into the shop.

Islington Gazette: Des with great nephew CharlieDes with great nephew Charlie (Image: Ann Crouch)

“He was just the kindest, loveliest man. Everyone who came in that shop was a friend. He just saw the good in people and he always had a smile, even with this terrible illness,” she said.

In 2012 a developer wanted to turn the shop into flats, but the community came together to save the off-licence and Des’s job and gathered 300 signatures.

In more recent years, when current owner Sajjad Akhtar took over, Pamela introduced Des to him and he took him on.

“For him I was like a son," said Sajj. "For me he was everything, not only for me but for my family – for my kids, for my wife, everybody. I don’t remember a single time asking Desmond to do something and him saying no, or him asking me and me saying no.”

The shop-owner described Des as an “angel” who was always willing to listen.

“He would always take your pain,” he said. “But he would never pass his problems and pain to you.”

Islington Gazette: In 2013 he was voted by Islington residents to turn on the Christmas lightsIn 2013 he was voted by Islington residents to turn on the Christmas lights (Image: Archant)

Des’s “life was the shop”, Sajjad said. A picture now hangs behind the counter in his memory.

His sister, Ann, said: “He was very religious. He attended church regularly and he was very involved in the community to help others. Even at a young age, he’s just always been like that. All his life he was very willing to help anyone.”

He was such a beloved part of Islington that he was voted by the community to turn on the Christmas lights at the N1 Centre (now Angel Central) in 2013.

Des is survived by his sister, Ann.

A funeral date has yet to be set.