Benidorm star Sheila Reid said the Christmas special was a fantastic tribute to her late co-star Geoffrey Hutchings.

Geoffrey played Madge’s partner Mel in the hit ITV1 comedy, but died earlier this year from a viral infection, meaning the Christmas special and series four had to be extensively rewritten.

But Sheila believes write Derren Litten got the tone spot on. “I think Derren has just handled it so well, it’s a fantastic tribute,” Sheila, 72, told the Mirror.

“It was jolly tricky during the special,” she says. “But because of the relationship we all have together and because of our enormous respect and love for Geoffrey we all got through it.

“He was such a fantastic actor and we did have a lot of laughs.”

Madge and Mel’s last scene together was, appropriately, the pair duetting to ­Engelbert Humperdinck’s Spanish Eyes. They sing the lyric: “Please don’t cry, this is just adios and not goodbye.”

Sheila says: “It was lovely. We sat in here in this very room with a recording machine desperately trying to get the song right. He was sitting there and I was sitting here. I have lots of amazing memories of Geoffrey but it is tricky.”

Without Mel to guide and support her Madge has tough times ahead, but Sheila believes her character will bounce back. She says: “I think Mel taught her a lot. She has more humanity than before she met him. Sometimes she gets herself into trouble, but she’s only trying to survive because that’s what she’s always done…

“She’s got the spirit of Mel to urge her on. She had it easy with him of course, because he treated her like a princess, but now life has changed again so she’s got to get on the attack.”