Bernard Cribbins obituary – Guardian

Bernard Cribbins obituary – Guardian BLOG Wednesday 3rd August 2022


Bernard Cribbins obituary – Guardian

Another obituary post taking us nearer to becoming an Obituary Blog. This time the amazing Bernard Cribbens. I loved most of the many roles he performed. Like Perks in The Railway Children, voice over in the Wombles and the great voice over in a RSPB short film about the Robin (I so, love this).

Over to the Guardian.

Character actor especially loved by young audiences for film and TV including Jackanory, The Wombles and The Railway Children

His first professional stage appearance was in 1943 and he never thought of retiring.

Bernard Cribbins in 2014.

During a full and varied career spanning more than 75 years as a much-loved, and very funny, character actor, Bernard Cribbins, who has died aged 93, was honoured by Bafta in 2009 with a special award for his work in children’s television. This encompassed story-telling in more than 100 episodes of the BBC’s Jackanory between 1966 and 1995; narrating and voicing all the furry creatures on all 60 episodes of The Wombles (1973-75); and gracing CBeebies as a retired fisherman spinning his yarns on Old Jack’s Boat (2013-15).

He explained his connection to young audiences by saying that his job was to look straight down the lens and imagine one child sitting there, transfixed. This attention, and affection, was visibly reciprocated in The Railway Children (1970), widely regarded as the best children’s movie made in Britain, when he played Albert Perks, the kindly old station porter on the platform where Bobbie (Jenny Agutter) and her siblings hope to be reunited with their father one day.

He also had a special relationship with Doctor Who fans, who relished his appearance in the second feature film, Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 (1966), with Peter Cushing landing the Tardis in a London laid waste by the deadly robots – and then his reincarnation as the wide-eyed amateur astronomer Wilfred Mott, grandfather to Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, in the David Tennant Doctor Who years, 2007-10.

His range was such that it included vaudevillian appearances on the BBC’s long-running music hall showcase, The Good Old Days; knockabout comedy in two gangland capers with Peter Sellers, Two Way Stretch (1960) and The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963); West End farce – he played leading roles opposite Donald Sinden, then Richard Briers, in two of Ray Cooney’s signature smash hits, Not Now, Darling (1968) and Run For Your Wife (1983); and revues and musicals.

Cribbins even found success in the pop charts, thanks to the producer George Martin (before he took up with the Beatles) in 1962, singing two Top 10 novelty songs written by Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks, The Hole in the Ground, which Noël Coward claimed as the record he would save from the waves on Desert Island Discs, and Right Said Fred, both of them comic narratives of the class war. A third song that year, Gossip Calypso, written by Trevor Peacock (“Hear all about it, yak-a-yak-yak; every woman up at the window giving out the gossip and getting it back”) made the Top 30.

Cribbins knew a bit about poverty and deprivation. During the depression years in Oldham, Lancashire, there was little work for either of his parents, John Cribbins, a plumber’s mate, and Ethel (nee Clarkson), a corduroy weaver, and so young Bernard leapt at the offer of 15 shillings (75p) a week at the Oldham Coliseum in 1943. The theatre’s director, Douglas Emery, had spotted his talent in an amateur show on that stage. Cribbins was only 14 when he left St Anne’s elementary school to take up the offer of small parts and stage management. He stayed in the job for seven years, playing increasingly larger, then leading, roles, with an interruption in 1947 to complete his national service with the Parachute Regiment in Aldershot, Hampshire, and then in Palestine.

In 1949 he left to play in seasons at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, with the Piccolo Players; in Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester; and at the new Queen’s theatre in Hornchurch, Essex. The last of these engagements led to his West End debut in 1956 in a musical version of The Comedy of Errors at the Arts theatre. The music was written by Julian Slade, who was instrumental in Cribbins joining his hit musical Salad Days at the Vaudeville in 1956; the cast also included Rudge, who would become a key colleague in Cribbins’s television and stage revue work. The previous year Cribbins had married Gillian McBarnet, his assistant stage manager at Oldham.

He divided his time in the 1960s between stage and screen. His first film was Tommy the Toreador (1959) starring Tommy Steele as a seaman turned bullfighter, and the Sellers collaborations led to a double whammy in 1964 of Carry On Jack (he played the lead role of Midshipman Albert Poop-Decker) and Carry On Spying (as one of four hopeless undercover agents led by Barbara Windsor as Daphne Honeybutt). On stage, his comedy credits included New Cranks (1960), a musical revue by the innovative choreographer John Cranko at the Lyric Hammersmith and a more traditional sketch and song revue, And Another Thing (1962), at the Fortune, written by Rudge and Dicks, with Anna Quayle and Lionel Blair.

Bernard Cribbins voiced all the furry creatures in the BBC children’s TV show The Wombles

The Cooney farce roles cemented Cribbins’s top-of-the-bill standing. In 1969, ITV gave him two series of his own comedy show, Cribbins, and a decade of high-profile television work culminated in Shillingbury Tales by Francis Essex, six hour-long episodes of everyday life in a fictional village, filmed on location in Aldbury, Hertfordshire. His character of Cuffy, the colourful tinker, was so successful that it earned him a 1983 spin-off series, Cuffy, in which he was joined by Linda Hayden and Jack Douglas from the original Shillingbury cast. In High and Dry (1987), he played another penniless eccentric, Ron Archer, who somehow acquires a decrepit pier on the Yorkshire coast just after the war.

A BBC Play of the Month in 1977 – William Wycherley’s sexually explicit Restoration masterpiece The Country Wife – in which he played the irascible husband of Helen Mirren’s lubricious Margery Pinchwife – was a reminder that he had been away from the stage for too long. After Run for Your Wife, Richard Eyre cast him as Nathan Detroit, succeeding Bob Hoskins, in his glorious National Theatre production of Guys and Dolls and, 10 years later, put him at the centre of his exquisite 1995 production of La Grande Magia by Eduardo De Filippo, also at the National. Cribbins played a magical mountebank who spirited away the wife of an electrified Alan Howard to her lover; the performance, said Michael Billington, was a revelation, combining the grizzled authority of a magus with clear hints of Cribbins’s experience at the tattier end of the showbiz spectrum.

As if to prove that he left no television stone unturned, he cropped up in Worzel Gummidge with Jon Pertwee, Last of the Summer Wine with Peter Sallis and Bill Owen and, in 2003, Coronation Street, in which he played Wally Bannister, a lecherous gardener passing himself off as a wealthy haulage firm owner. His later films included Carry On Columbus (1992), the last in the Carry On series; a celebrity cameo spot in the film version of Run For Your Wife (2012); and Mandie Fletcher’s Patrick (2018) co-starring Jennifer Saunders, Gemma Jones and Ed Skrein.

Cribbins and his wife, Gill, lived in Weybridge, Surrey. He was always happiest, when filming on location, if he could spend down-time either fishing or beachcombing. He was appointed OBE in 2011, and never once thought of retiring.

Gill died in 2021.

 Bernard Joseph Cribbins, actor, born 29 December 1928; died 27 July 2022


TOP 3, 35 & 39 OF THE DAY


TOP 3 Chart Singles of Bernard Cribbins

1              “Hole in the Ground”          Charted at #9        One of Noël Coward’s choices when guest on BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs

2              “Right Said Fred”                Charted at #10     Inspired the name of the band of the same name

3              “Gossip Calypso”                Charted at #25


TOP 35 TV Roles Bernard Cribbins appeared in:

                YEAR    TV                                          CHARACTER    

1              1956       David Copperfield               Thomas Traddles

2              1960       Interpol Calling                    Episode: “Slow Boat to Amsterdam”

3              1961       Winning Widows                

4              1965       Comedy Playhouse             Ambrose Twomby              Episode: “Here I Come Whoever I Am”

5              1966–1991           Jackanory             Storyteller              114 appearances

6              1973–1975           The Wombles       Narrator and Voices            All 60 episodes[20]

7              1975       Fawlty Towers                      Mr. Hutchinson   Episode: “The Hotel Inspectors”

8              1976       Space: 1999                          Captain Michael  Episode: “Brian the Brain”

9              1977       Play of the Month               Pinchwife              Episode: “The Country Wife”

10                           Once Upon a Classic           Pyramid Episode: “Night Ferry”

11           1979       The Plank                              House Painter       TV film

12           1981       Shillingbury Tales               Cuffy     2 episodes

13                           Worzel Gummidge              Jolly Jack              Episode: “The Golden Hind”

14           1982       It’s Your Move                     Neighbour             TV film

15           1983       Tales of the Unexpected    Charlie Krebs       Episode: “The Memory Man”

16                           Cuffy     Cuffy Follett         6 episodes

17           1986       Langley Bottom                  Seth Raven           7 episodes

18           1987       High & Dry                           Ron Archer           7 episodes

19                           Super Gran            Officer P. Brain   Episode: “Supergran and the Birthday Dambuster”

20                           When We Are Married       Herbert Soppitt    TV film[16]

21           1990       Bertie the Bat                       Narrator 10 episodes

22           1991       Tonight at 8.30                    Mr. Wadhurst       Episode: “Hands Across the Sea”

23           1996       Dennis and Gnasher            Clint Katzenberger              Voice; Episode: “Oil Strike”

24           1999       Dalziel and Pascoe              Uncle Henry         Episode: “Time to Go”

25           2000       The Canterbury Tales         Carpenter              Voice; Episode: “The Journey Back”

26           2003       Last of the Summer Wine  Gavin Hinchcliffe   Episode: “In Which Gavin Hinchcliffe Loses the Gulf Stream”

27                           Barbara Frank                     “Guy Fawkes”

28                           Coronation Street Wally Bannister   11 episodes

29           2005       Down to Earth                     Frank Cosgrove    3 episodes

30           2007–2010, 2023 Doctor Who          Wilfred Mott        10 episodes

31           2013–2015           Old Jack’s Boat    Old Jack All 47 episodes

32           2014       Midsomer Murders              Duggie Wingate   Episode: “The Flying Club”

33           2015       New Tricks                            DCI Ronald Sainsbury       2 episodes

34           2016       A Midsummer Night’s Dream           Tom Snout            TV film

35                           The Wombles                       Great Uncle Bulgaria          Voice; Episode: “Green Cake”



TOP 39 Films Bernard Cribbins appeared in:              

                YEAR    FILM                                                     CHARACTER                                    

1              1957       Yangtse Incident: The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst        Sonar Operator/1st Cribbage Player

2              1958       Davy                                                      Stage Hand, Collins Music Hall      

3                              Dunkirk                                                 Thirsty Sailor       

4              1959       Make Mine a Million                          Jack       

5                              Tommy the Toreador                          Paco      

6              1960       Two-Way Stretch                                Lennie Price         

7                              The World of Suzie Wong                 Otis        

8              1961       Passport to China                                Pereira   

9                              Nothing Barred                                    Newspaperman   

10                           The Best of Enemies                           Col. Brownlow    

11           1962       The Girl on the Boat                           Peters    

12                           The Fast Lady                                      Man on Stretcher

13           1963       The Wrong Arm of the Law              Nervous O’Toole 

14                           The Mouse on the Moon                    Vincent Mountjoy             

15                           Carry On Jack                                      Midshipman Albert Poop-Decker    

16           1964       A Home of Your Own                        The Stonemason

17                           Carry On Spying                                  Harold Crump     

18                           Crooks in Cloisters                              Squirts   

19                           The Counterfeit Constable                Bob, l’agent 202  

20           1965       She                                                         Job         

21                           Cup Fever                                             Policeman            

22                           You Must Be Joking                           Sgt. Clegg             

23           1966       The Sandwich Man                             Harold – Photographer      

24                           Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.    Tom Campbell    

25           1967       Casino Royale                                      Carlton Towers, Taxi Driver             

26           1968       A Ghost of a Chance                          Ron       

27                           Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River        Fred Davies         

28           1970       The Railway Children                         Albert Perks         

29           1972       Frenzy                                                    Felix Forsythe     

30           1976       Night Ferry                                           Pyramid

31           1978       The Water Babies                                Mr. Masterman/Voice of Eel            

32                           The Adventures of Picasso                Gertrude Stein/Narrator    

33           1981       Dangerous Davies – The Last Detective         Dangerous Davies              

34           1992       Carry On Columbus                            Mordecai Mendoza           

35           2003       Blackball                                               Mutley  

36           2012       Run for Your Wife                              Hospital patient  

37                           A Fantastic Fear of Everything         The Voice             

38           2018       Patrick                                                   Albert    

39                           Woodland


Narration and voice work

Cribbins was the narrator of the British animated children’s television series The Wombles from 1973 to 1975 and also played the character of the Water Rat in a BBC radio adaptation of The Wind in the Willows. He was the celebrity storyteller in more episodes of Jackanory than any other personality, with a total of 114 appearances between 1966 and 1991. He also narrated the audio tape of the Antonia Barber book The Mousehole Cat. From 1974 to 1976, Cribbins narrated Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings.

In the 1960s Cribbins provided the voice of the character Tufty in RoSPA road safety films. He also provided the voice of Buzby, a talking cartoon bird that was the mascot for the Post Office. He also appeared in advertisements for Hornby model trains. In 1978, he provided one of two voiceovers in the electricity safety public information film Play Safe. The other voice artist was Brian Wilde; Wilde voiced the owl and Cribbins voiced the robin. In 1981, Music for Pleasure released a Swallows and Amazons audio book on tape cassette, read by Cribbins, abridged by Edward Phillips.

Cribbins also provided the voiceover work for A Passion For Angling, starring Chris Yates and Bob James (1993).[ In 2013 Cribbins played Old Bailey in the radio adaptation of Neverwhere, dramatised by Dirk Maggs and in 2015 he was among an ensemble cast in an audio production of The Jungle Book, in which he played the White Cobra.                   

Round Robin – BBC One – Mon 24th Dec 1979,

‘A bird’s-eye-view of what it’s like to be a British robin….’

“This Christmas the robin will be thrusting out his red breast from greetings cards, and cocking a friendly eye from the windowsill at the festive events in thousands of households… In this international award-winning film, Bernard Cribbins interprets a year in the life of the robin with a rare touch of charm and humour, as the robin stakes out his territory, avoids the local cat. makes a profitable ‘deal’ with the gardener, chats up the birds, and raises a family in the hedgerow.

Script and commentary by BERNARD CRIBBINS -Directed by HUGH MILES

An RSPB FILM UNIT production. BBC Bristol

REMEMBER: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.

– Nicolas Chamfort


“Keep your face always toward the sunshine―and shadows will fall behind you.” ―Walt Whitman


Happiness is…listening to and watching Bernard Cribbins.


Our child has a great deal of willpower—and even more won’t power.


Love is…when it’s time for a coffee break.


Happy wife = happy life.


A time for Bernard Cribbens to be Perks in The Railway Children…A time for Bernard Cribbins to be the voice of the Robin in RSPB’s film Round Robin.





©2022 Phil M Robinson