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Russell T Davies’ beautiful tribute to Bernard Cribbins

28 Jul 2022 6 minute read
Russell T Davies / Bernard Cribbins (Credit: PA)

Welsh screenwriter Russell T Davies has paid a beautiful tribute to Bernard Cribbins, after it was announced the actor had died, aged 93.

The pair famously worked together with so much success on Doctor Who, with Davies as lead writer and Cribbins, as Wilfred Mott, friend of the Doctor and the grandad of Catherine Tate’s character Donna Noble.

In a post on Instagram, Davies wrote: “I love this man. I love him. That’s him as Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. D’you fancy doing some Shakespeare, Bernard? “Let me see the script.”

“He knew everyone! He’d talk about the Beatles and David Niven, and how he once sat on the stairs at a party impersonating bird calls with T H White. Then he’d add, ‘I said to Ashley Banjo last week…’

“He loved being in Doctor Who. He said, ‘Children are calling me grandad in the street!’ His first day was on location with Kylie Minogue, but all eyes, even Kylie’s, were on Bernard. He’d turned up with a suitcase full of props, just in case, including a rubber chicken.

“And what an actor. Oh, really though, what a wonderful actor. We once took him to the TV Choice Awards and sent him up on his own to collect the award, and the entire room stood up and cheered him. That’s a lovely memory.

“He’d phone up and say, ‘I’ve got an idea! What if I attack a Dalek with a paintball gun?!’ Okay, Bernard, in it went! He loved Gill (his wife who died last year) with all his heart; he mentioned her in every conversation we ever had. A love story for the ages. I’m so lucky to have known him. Thanks for everything, my old soldier. A legend has left the world.”


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The children’s TV star and entertainer starred in the Carry On films, Doctor Who and the 1970 film The Railway Children.

A statement from Gavin Barker Associates said: “Beloved actor Bernard Cribbins OBE has passed away at the age of 93.

“His career spanned seven decades with such diverse work ranging from films like The Railway Children and the Carry On series, hit 60s song Right Said Fred, a notorious guest on Fawlty Towers and narrating The Wombles.

“He worked well into his 90s, recently appearing in Doctor Who and the CBeebies series Old Jack’s Boat.

“He lost his wife of 66 years, Gill, last year.

“Bernard’s contribution to British entertainment is without question. He was unique, typifying the best of his generation, and will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing and working with him.”

The Railway Children

Born in Oldham, Cribbins was revered for his versatility and became a favourite with young audiences all over the country as the narrator of The Wombles, as well as for more than 100 appearances on the children’s favourite, Jackanory.

After appearing on stage for many years, Cribbins made his film debut in 1957’s Davy, before going on to work alongside some of British cinema’s biggest names in films such as Two-Way Stretch, She, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A and the 1967 version of Casino Royale.

In 1972, he played barman Felix Forsythe in director Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Frenzy, which revolved around the hunt for a serial killer in London.

He also starred in several Carry On movies and had roles in TV favourites Coronation Street and the revamped Doctor Who.

Off-screen Cribbins enjoyed a successful musical career and had a number of hit records including 1962 comedy songs, Hole In The Ground and Right Said Fred, both of which reached the UK singles chart top 10.

Hole In The Ground, about a dispute between a workman digging a hole and a busybody in a bowler hat, was one of playwright and actor Sir Noel Coward’s musical choices when he appeared on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs in 1963.

Bernard Cribbins with actresses, Sally Thomsett (left) and Jenny Agutter, filming The Railway Children (Credit: PA)

Arguably one of the roles he is most famous for was as station porter Albert Perks in The Railway Children, released in 1970.

The film adaptation of E Nesbit’s book chronicles the adventures of three children forced to move from London to Yorkshire after their father is imprisoned for being falsely accused of selling state secrets.

The film also starred a young Jenny Agutter and famously featured the tear-jerking moment at the film’s climax when Agutter’s character cries “daddy, my daddy” as they are reunited on a train platform.

In 2011 he received an OBE for services to drama for his long career. Speaking at the investiture ceremony, he said providing the voices of characters such as Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory and Orinoco was simple because of how The Wombles was written.

“The structure of the writing was such that you knew exactly where everybody was socially in that household,” he said.

He went on to regularly appear in the Doctor Who TV series as Wilfred Mott, the grandfather of the Doctor’s companion Donna Noble, played by Catherine Tate.

Bernard Cribbins and David Tennant collecting the award for best Drama received for Dr Who during the National Television Awards 2010 (Credit: PA)

Voyage Of The Damned, which was broadcast on Christmas Day in 2007, saw 13.31 million people tune in to watch the then-Doctor, David Tennant, battle to save the crew of a luxury space liner called the Titanic.

Cribbins featured in the episode alongside special guests including Kylie Minogue, Geoffrey Palmer, Clive Swift and Russell Tovey.

He also had the lead role in CBeebies show Old Jack’s Boat and in the 1960s narrated the Tufty Fluffytale series of public information films about road safety.

More recently, reports said Cribbins had been spotted filming alongside Tate and Tennant for Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 year ago

When I was a little girl in the eighties my dad made a tape for me, on one side it had “The Land of Point” and on the other punk and novelty songs that I liked in that era. I used to love singing along to “Hole In The Ground” and “Right Said Fred” that were on there. I even got a bit of kudos from my primary school teacher because I told him I knew those songs when he was playing them through before we sang them. I liked that the divvy in the bowler hat got his comeuppance… Read more »

1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Nicely put. A thoroughly likeable man and a versatile actor.

One of the two witnesses
One of the two witnesses
1 year ago

And The Railway Children, set in Yorkshire, was largely filmed in South Wales. So much easier to just set it in South Wales. I wonder why they didn’t.
From what I recall, the late great Mr Cribbins did a pretty good Welsh accent too

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 year ago

Very sad news. Big fan of Bernard Cribbins growing up as a child. He was a rare breed of actor. Liked by everyone and appeared in some iconic films & TV series throughout his illustrious career.

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