Sooty star Matthew Corbett, 72, almost died from coronavirus


Sooty star Matthew Corbett has revealed he almost died from coronavirus and spent 10 days battling the infection in intensive care.

The puppeteer, 72, who hosted the iconic children’s show from 1976-1998, said it was ‘touch and go’ whether he would survive his COVID-19 battle.

Speaking to Cheshire Life, he said: ‘I caught corona. I was in Warrington General Hospital for 10 nights and have been told since that it was touch-and-go as to whether I would survive.

Fragile: Sooty star Matthew Corbett has revealed he almost died from coronavirus and spent 10 days battling the infection in intensive care 

‘As a result of the coronavirus I then got pneumonia, which led to atrial fibrillation. It was much worse for my family than for me. They were terrified, they thought I wasn’t coming out of hospital.’ 

Artial fibrillation is a condition where the heart beats so fast that the muscle cannot relax.

The star said seven weeks on from his ordeal he still gets out of breath and is ‘so weak’, leading him to make the decision to sell his house and move to a retirement village with his wife, Sallie. 

Close shave: The puppeteer, 72, who hosted the iconic children's show from 1976-1998, said it was 'touch and go' whether he would survive his COVID-19 battle (pictured in 2015)

Close shave: The puppeteer, 72, who hosted the iconic children’s show from 1976-1998, said it was ‘touch and go’ whether he would survive his COVID-19 battle (pictured in 2015)

He said: ‘I can’t mow the lawn, it’s too big, and I can’t carry down the shopping… We’re moving to a retirement village in Horsham, in West Sussex, where everything is on the doorstep.’

He added that it was close to the children him and Sallie share and to Gatwick, enabling them to have ‘the best of both worlds.’   

Matthew, whose real name is Peter, took over Sooty, the famous glove puppet bear, in 1976 from his dad Harry Corbett, who originally created the characters in 1952.

He said: 'I caught corona. I was in Warrington General Hospital for 10 nights and have been told since that it was touch-and-go as to whether I would survive'

He said: ‘I caught corona. I was in Warrington General Hospital for 10 nights and have been told since that it was touch-and-go as to whether I would survive’

He spent 22 years presenting the show until he retired in 1998 and according to The Times  he keeps all of Sooty’s, including his miniature OBE, in his downstairs loo.

Sooty was originally a toy bought for Matthew by his father Harry from a stall when they were on holiday in Blackpool in 1948. 

His first television appearance was in 1952 on BBC Talent Night and over the course of ten days different performers battled it out to win the top spot and perform live on the Saturday night show which was broadcast across the UK. 

Dangerous: Matthew faced complications with coronavirus, including pneumonia and artial fibrillation - a condition where the heart beats so fast that the muscle cannot relax

Dangerous: Matthew faced complications with coronavirus, including pneumonia and artial fibrillation – a condition where the heart beats so fast that the muscle cannot relax

Harry and Sooty was the overall winner and then became regulars on the BBC children’s show Saturday Special from 1952 to 1955. 

The original puppet was completely yellow but in a bid to help him show up better on black and white TV, Harry covered his ears and nose with ‘soot’. 

The Sooty Show continued on until 1992 and eventually became a sitcom and was where Matthew met his wife Sallie, who also worked on the show. 

Man in charge: Matthew, whose real name is Peter, took over Sooty, the famous glove puppet bear, in 1976 from his dad Harry Corbett, who originally created the characters in 1952

Man in charge: Matthew, whose real name is Peter, took over Sooty, the famous glove puppet bear, in 1976 from his dad Harry Corbett, who originally created the characters in 1952

Sweet: Sooty was originally a toy bought for Matthew by his father Harry from a stall when they were on holiday in Blackpool in 1948

Sweet: Sooty was originally a toy bought for Matthew by his father Harry from a stall when they were on holiday in Blackpool in 1948

In 1996 Matthew sold the rights to Sooty to the Global Rights Development Fun (a part of the Bank of Yokohoma) for £1.4million – which with inflation would equate to £2.3million today. 

Matthew continued on in his role until December 1998 when he handed the puppet over to his then co-star Richard Cadell.   

Not only was his father famous, Matthew’s great uncle was Harry Ramsden – the creator of the fish and chip shop chain of the same name. 

Matthew was born in West Riding of Yorkshire as Peter Corbett but had to change his name in the 60s when joining Equity. 

He started his career by appeared in Doctor Who in 1971 as a character called Jones and was a regular on children’s show Rainbow until he left to take over The Sooty Show.  

Old life: Matthew was a regular on children's show Rainbow until he left to take over The Sooty Show (pictured on Rainbow)

Old life: Matthew was a regular on children’s show Rainbow until he left to take over The Sooty Show (pictured on Rainbow) 

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