Singer Morrissey was rushed by ambulance to the Great Western Hospital tonight after he collapsed on stage just one song into a gig at The Oasis in Swindon.

The Gazette understands that an initial 999 call reported the 50-year-old former Smiths frontman was unconscious but he was conscious when the ambulance crew arrived at the leisure centre. His condition is said to be stable.

Morrissey, wearing a dark open-necked shirt, had appeared on stage at around 9pm looking drawn.

He said to the 1,000-strong audience: "Good evening... possibly," before launching into The Smiths' 1983 hit This Charming Man.

He appeared to be straining to perform the song, wincing as he did so.

Just as he came to the end of the song his knees buckled and he slumped to the stage. Assistant tour manager Charlie Browne and a stage hand rushed to his side and dragged him off stage. He was immediately followed off by his backing band and singers. The stage lights went up, to cat calls and whistles from the audience.

After ten minutes of silence a stage hand came to the microphone at the centre of the stage. "We will keep you informed what's happening," he said.

It was another 25 minutes before a second black-clad stage hand came to the same microphone. "Morrissey has left the building," he said.

"Please keep your tickets and you can get a refund or come again if there are more dates."

He was met with boos and more catcalls from some sections of the audience.

"He is seriously ill," the announcer added.

Bizarrely, as the auditorium lights came up, the crowd filed towards the exits and the stage crew began clearing instruments and amps from the stage, Frank Sinatra's My Way was played over the pa.

Some fans were in tears as they asked stewards for news.

The singer, whose real name is Steven Patrick Morrissey, had been taken by ambulance to the Great Western Hospital.

A hospital spokesman said the singer had suffered breathing difficulties.

Great Western Hospital site manager Deborah Allen said: "Morrissey was brought in to the Accident and Emergency department this evening. He has been reviewed by the medical team. His condition is stable."

A spokesman for the Great Western Ambulance Service said: "We got a call at 9pm and were there two minutes later with a double-crewed ambulance.

"A paramedic checked him over and he was taken to the Great Western Hospital for further assessment.

Morrissey had to cancel dates in Bristol, London and Birmingham earlier this year because of a throat illness. He also stormed off stage in Norway in June because a beer bottle was thrown.

He left the stage at the Coachella Festival this summer after complaining about the smell from burger vans. He is a committed vegetarian.