Bill Treacher, who played Arthur Fowler in EastEnders, has died aged 92, his family said 


Bill Treacher, who became a household name during his 11 year stint as Arthur Fowler in EastEnders, has died aged 92, his family said.

In a statement, Treacher’s Australian actress wife, Katherine Kessey, and two children Sophie and Jamie, revealed the retired actor’s health ‘had been declining for some time’.

In 2015, the veteran actor revealed he’d been diagnosed with ataxia, a degenerative disease which hinders balance and the ability to walk.

As a result of the neurological condition, Treacher was relying on a wheelchair and had retired from acting. 

‘Bill was a brilliant actor and a wonderful husband and father, plus a very fine human being,’ his family said. ‘He will be hugely missed.’  

Treacher died on Saturday evening, his family said. He had spent the last 18 years happily retired in Suffolk with Ms Kessey. 

The 92-year-old was the first actor to be cast in EastEnders and appeared from the pilot episode, back in February 1985. He played the role for 11 years, making him the eighth-longest serving actor in the history of the program.

In a statement, Treacher’s (centre left with his wife and children) family revealed the retired actor’s health ‘had been declining for some time’ 

The 92-year-old was the first actor to be cast in EastEnders and appeared from the pilot episode, back in February 1985. He played the role for 11 years, making him the eighth-longest serving actor in the history of the program. Pictured: The original EastEnders cast on set in 1984 (Treacher is pictured third from the right)

The 92-year-old was the first actor to be cast in EastEnders and appeared from the pilot episode, back in February 1985. He played the role for 11 years, making him the eighth-longest serving actor in the history of the program. Pictured: The original EastEnders cast on set in 1984 (Treacher is pictured third from the right)

Treacher starred alongside Wendy Richard as husband and wife from the very first episode of EastEnders (pictured together)

Treacher starred alongside Wendy Richard as husband and wife from the very first episode of EastEnders (pictured together)

The 92-year-old was one of the first actors to be cast in EastEnders and appeared in the first episode, back in February 1985

The 92-year-old was one of the first actors to be cast in EastEnders and appeared in the first episode, back in February 1985

After he bid farewell to the role in 1996, Treacher famously said ‘by the time I finished, even the theme music was making me feel ill’. 

Treacher starred as the allotment-loving patriarch of the Fowler family, married to Pauline Fowler (Wendy Richard). His character faced plenty of drama during his 11 years on Albert Square – including false imprisonment, a scandalous affair and mental breakdown.

He received widespread acclaim for his performance portraying the decline of his character’s mental health ‘at a time when mental health issues weren’t really discussed’.

But he said the gruelling schedule and long working hours were negatively impacting his health, and doctors warned if he didn’t start relaxing more ‘it would kill him’.

After his character was killed off at his request, Treacher went on to appear in The Musketeer, Tale Of The Mummy, and George And The Dragon. 

An EastEnders spokesperson said: ‘It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of Bill Treacher. As one of our original cast members, Bill created a much loved character in Arthur Fowler and, alongside Wendy Richard, they created an iconic family in the Fowlers who still remain at the heart of the show.

‘Bill left EastEnders in 1996 so it is a true testament to both he, and the character that he created in Arthur, that he is still thought of so fondly. Bill will always be remembered for his charm, sense of humour – with a smile that lit up the room – and more importantly as a family man who was devoted to his wife and children.

‘Bill will forever be held in great affection by everyone at EastEnders and all those that loved watching him.’

When leaving EastEnders in 1996, Treacher (pictured left in an episode in 1994) famously said 'by the time I finished, even the theme music was making me feel ill'

When leaving EastEnders in 1996, Treacher (pictured left in an episode in 1994) famously said ‘by the time I finished, even the theme music was making me feel ill’

The 92-year-old  (pictured centre) was one of the first actors to be cast in EastEnders and appeared in the first episode, back in February 1985. Pictured on set with his on-screen wife and daughter in 1986

The 92-year-old  (pictured centre) was one of the first actors to be cast in EastEnders and appeared in the first episode, back in February 1985. Pictured on set with his on-screen wife and daughter in 1986

An EastEnders spokesperson said: 'It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of Bill Treacher. As one of our original cast members, Bill created a much loved character in Arthur Fowler and, alongside Wendy Richard, they created an iconic family in the Fowlers who still remain at the heart of the show

An EastEnders spokesperson said: ‘It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of Bill Treacher. As one of our original cast members, Bill created a much loved character in Arthur Fowler and, alongside Wendy Richard, they created an iconic family in the Fowlers who still remain at the heart of the show

He was married Australian actress wife, Katherine Kessey (pictured together at their wedding) , and the couple lived out their retirement in Suffolk

He was married Australian actress wife, Katherine Kessey (pictured together at their wedding) , and the couple lived out their retirement in Suffolk

Letitia Dean, another original cast member who played Sharon Watts, said: ‘Bill really was the life and soul of the set, he was an absolute joy to be around and always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.

‘As an actor, Bill was meticulous and he went to great lengths to portray Arthur, from the smallest scenes to the heartbreaking stories.

‘Bill was an utter professional, a wonderful man and he will be greatly missed. I’m sending all my love to his family.’

Another colleague, Adam Woodyatt, said Treacher would ‘get this twinkle in his eye’ when he was up to mischief. 

‘You’d start laughing and he never got the blame. I used to love it when he was trying to remember his lines in rehearsal and he would just blunder and bluster until the correct word came out,’ he said.

Todd Carty, who played the Treacher’s eldest son Mark on the program, said: ‘I’m so sorry to hear about Bill passing, I absolutely loved working with him. He was not only an amazing actor but a kind and sincere man.

‘My thoughts are with his family at this time. He’ll be sadly missed, I will never forget him. May he rest in peace.’

Pictured: Bill Treacher

Pictured: Bill Treacher

'Bill will forever be held in great affection by everyone at EastEnders and all those that loved watching him'

Pictured: Alan Titchmarsh With Eastenders Actor Bill Treacher

An EastEnders spokesperson said: ‘Bill will forever be held in great affection by everyone at EastEnders and all those that loved watching him’

Chris Clenshaw, an executive producer on the show, said: ‘Like so many, I grew up watching EastEnders with the beloved Arthur Fowler on his allotment, one of Walford’s originals who can still be described as a true heart of the Square. 

‘To this day, Arthur Fowler is still so fondly remembered by the audience and that is due to the character that Bill created and the reason why the Fowler name is still very much alive in Albert Square, as are the great memories of those that worked with Bill. We send all our love and thoughts to Bill’s wife and family.’

Gillian Taylforth, who played Kathy Beale on the soap during Mr Treacher’s tenure, said: ‘I have so many happy memories of Bill, in fact we were only sharing stories of him at work the other day, about how he always had a sparkle in his eyes, usually before he mischievously set us off laughing during scenes. 

‘Bill was a wonderful, wonderful man who will be truly missed and I am sending all our love to his wife Kate and his family.’

He was married Australian actress wife, Katherine Kessey (pictured together), and the couple lived out their retirement in Suffolk

He was married Australian actress wife, Katherine Kessey (pictured together), and the couple lived out their retirement in Suffolk

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