Bernard Cribbins death: Doctor Who actor dies aged 93 


Much-loved actor and children’s TV star Bernard Cribbins has died at the age of 93, it was revealed today – just months after his beloved wife of almost 70 years passed away.

The death of the British star, who was in many Carry On films, Fawlty Towers, Doctor Who, narrated The Wombles, Jackanory and was in the classic 1970 film adaptation of The Railway Children, has devastated fans.

Mr Cribbins, the son of cotton weaver from Oldham who worked on children’s TV until recently and was due to appear in the new series of Doctor Who next year after filming for a 60th anniversary show with former Time Lord David Tennant, who was seen pushing him in a wheelchair through north London with Catherine Tate on May 16.

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.’  

Mr Cribbins, a friend of The Beatles and numerous megastars including David Niven, recently put his long life and career down ‘good luck and genes’. When he turned 90 he said: ‘It’s just a number’ and insisted he would never retire.

But last October he was devastated when his wife Gillian, who he married in 1955, died. They walked down the aisle a year before his acting debut in a TV adaptation of David Copperfield. They lived in Surrey and had no children, having suffered the heartbreak of a series of miscarriages. 

Bernard said his work on children’s TV and films, especially The Railway Children, gave him ‘a very warm feeling to think of all those who watched it as a child’, and helped him cope with the sadness of not being able to have their own.

In later life, he beat prostate cancer and survived triple heart bypass surgery in 1997. He also suffered a spinal injury that left him unable to walk long distances. This is why his much-loved CBeebies series Old Jack’s Boat was filmed with him sat down telling stories of the sea that enthralled young viewers.

David Tennant and Catherine Tate return to Dr Who alongside Bernard Cribbins in what is believed to be the last photo of Bernard Cribbins on May

Bernard Cribbins, pictured with his wife Gillian, who passed away last year, has died aged 93

Bernard Cribbins, pictured with his wife Gillian, who passed away last year, has died aged 93

Bernard Cribbins as 'Wilf' in the 2009 episode of Doctor Who; 'The End of Time, Part One', alongside David Tennant

Bernard Cribbins as ‘Wilf’ in the 2009 episode of Doctor Who; ‘The End of Time, Part One’, alongside David Tennant

Mr Cribbins, pictured in 2018, worked into his 90s and put his long life down to 'good luck and genes'

Mr Cribbins, pictured in 2018, worked into his 90s and put his long life down to ‘good luck and genes’

Mr Cribbins in the much-loved film adaptation of the Railway Children. He and his wife were not able to have children but he said his work on this movie and other hits helped him cope with the grief

Mr Cribbins in the much-loved film adaptation of the Railway Children. He and his wife were not able to have children but he said his work on this movie and other hits helped him cope with the grief 

Bernard was a celebrated comic actor, pictured left measuring Barbara Windsor's chest in Carry on Spying in 1964

Mr Cribbins in the 1963 hit Carry on Jack

Bernard was a celebrated comic actor, pictured left measuring Barbara Windsor’s chest in Carry on Spying in 1964 and right in the 1963 hit Carry on Jack

Despite mobility problems, the actor continued to work into his 80s and 90s. Here with Salty in Old Jack's Boat, the much-loved CBeebies show

Despite mobility problems, the actor continued to work into his 80s and 90s. Here with Salty in Old Jack’s Boat, the much-loved CBeebies show

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 AD, the 1967 version of Casino Royale and Frenzy.

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.

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. Cribbins played the station porter Albert Perks.

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.

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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