A popular market trader known as the banana lady has died at the age of 91.

Mary Ellen Mears, who was called Eileen by friends and family, ran a fruit and vegetable store at the Open Market in London Road, Brighton, for more than half a century and worked well into her 80s.

She died at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton after suffering a burst blood vessel at her home in Kipling Avenue, Woodingdean, Brighton, four days earlier.

Mrs Mears moved from Ireland to Seaford in 1928 when she worked as a companion to the family who owned Pye Radio, which was eventually bought out by Phillips.

She met her husband Charles in Seaford as he was stationed there during the second world war. They married in 1940.

In 1948 the family bought the market stall and it was run by Mr and Mrs Mears until Mr Mears died aged 56 in 1969.

After his death, the business was run by Mrs Mears with the help of her children, Pat, Mary, Cyril and Lenny, who all live in Sussex.

Pat Mears said: "When my mum retired she gave her share of the business to Cyril but she still used to come down and do the flats in the morning and cash up in the evening.

"She was called the banana lady because she used to give all the children free bananas.

"Even the funeral director who is sorting things out for us said mum used to give him bananas when he was a kid.

"There must have been a lot of children in Brighton who remember my mum giving them bananas.

"She had a few people who she used to give stuff to. She used to give her fruit and vegetables to one woman because she could not afford to buy it.

"She was a very easy going woman. Dad was 6ft tall and massive and mum was a bit smaller and if you had done something wrong you always went to mum.

"I do not think anybody had a bad word for her. The house was always open and even when we were little when someone came round if they hadn't eaten they were always invited to sit at the table."

Mrs Mears died on August 2.

Her funeral will be held at St Margaret's Church in Rottingdean on Wednesday at 2pm, followed by a burial at Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Woodingdean, next to her husband.

The family has asked that flowers and donations be made payable to the Solomon/Donald Hall Stroke Unit and sent to Christopher Stringer Funeral Services, 67 High Street, Rottingdean, BN2 7HE.