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Bernard Cribbins

Staithes MMB 20C Old Jack's Boat - Bernard Cribbins.jpg
Cribbins filming Old Jack's Boat in 2012
Bernard Joseph Cribbins

(1928-12-29)29 December 1928
Oldham, Lancashire, England
Died 27 July 2022(2022-07-27) (aged 93)
Weybridge, Surrey, England
  • Actor
  • singer
Years active 1943–2022
Gillian McBarnet
(m. 1955; died 2021)

Bernard Joseph Cribbins OBE (29 December 1928 – 27 July 2022) was an English actor and singer whose career spanned seven decades.

During the 1960s, Cribbins became known in the UK for his successful novelty records "The Hole in the Ground" and "Right Said Fred" and for his appearances in comedy films including Two-Way Stretch (1960) and the Carry On series. His other screen roles include the astronaut Vincent Mountjoy in The Mouse on the Moon (1963), Albert Perks in The Railway Children (1970), the barman Felix Forsythe in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972) and the pretentious hotel guest Mr Hutchinson in the Fawlty Towers episode "The Hotel Inspectors" (1975). On television, he was a regular and prolific reader for the BBC series Jackanory from 1966 to 1991, he narrated the children's programme The Wombles (1973–1975) and he played the title role in the CBeebies series Old Jack's Boat (2013–2015).

In the 1966 film Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., Cribbins portrayed Tom Campbell, a companion to Dr. Who. Forty-one years later, he began appearing in the revival series of Doctor Who as Wilfred Mott, the grandfather of regular companion Donna Noble and a temporary companion to the Tenth Doctor.

Early life

Bernard Joseph Cribbins was born on 29 December 1928 in the Derker area of Oldham, Lancashire, the son of the cotton weaver Ethel (née Clarkson; 1898–1989) and the First World War veteran John Edward Cribbins (1896–1964). He had two sisters, alongside whom he grew up close to poverty. He described his father as a "jack of all trades" who also dabbled in acting. Cribbins left school at the age of 13 and found a job as an assistant stage manager at a local theatre club, where he also took on some small acting roles, and then served an apprenticeship at the Oldham Repertory Theatre. In 1947, he began national service with the Parachute Regiment in Aldershot, Hampshire, as well as Mandatory Palestine.


Early career

Cribbins made his first West End theatre appearance in 1956 at the Arts Theatre, playing the two Dromios in A Comedy of Errors, and co-starred in the first West End productions of Not Now Darling, There Goes the Bride and Run for Your Wife. In 1960, he starred alongside Anna Quayle and Lionel Blair in the revue And Another Thing, written by Ted Dicks and Myles Rudge. The show brought Cribbins to the attention of Parlophone head George Martin, who signed Cribbins to the label to record a single of a satirical song from the show titled "Folk Song". Subsequently, Rudge and Dicks were subsequently asked to provide new material for Cribbins; their compositions "The Hole in the Ground", about an annoyed workman who eventually buries a harasser, and "Right Said Fred", about three workmen who struggle to move an unspecified heavy and awkward object into or out of a building (later also the name of a pop novelty band who named themselves after the song), were top ten hits on the UK Singles Chart in 1962. The third and final Cribbins single of the year "Gossip Calypso", written by Trevor Peacock, was another top 30 hit.


Cribbins appeared in films from the early 1950s, mainly comedies. His credits include Two-Way Stretch (1960) and The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963) with Peter Sellers, Crooks in Cloisters (1964) and three Carry On films – Carry On Jack (1963), Carry On Spying (1964) and Carry On Columbus (1992). His other appearances include the second Doctor Who film Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966) as Special Police Constable Tom Campbell; She (1965); Casino Royale (1967) as Carlton Towers, a British Foreign Office official, The Railway Children (1970) as Mr Albert Perks, the station porter and the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Frenzy (1972) as Felix Forsythe, the Covent Garden pub landlord. His later films include Dangerous Davies – The Last Detective (1981), Blackball (2003) and Run for Your Wife (2012).

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 1996, he played Puddleglum the marshwiggle in Brian Sibley's BBC Radio adaptation of C. S. Lewis's The Silver Chair. In 2013, he 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.


Cribbins with Susie Silvey in Cuffy (1983)

Cribbins was the star of the ITV series Cribbins (1969–70). His other TV appearances include The Avengers (1968), Fawlty Towers (1975, as the spoon salesman Mr Hutchinson who is mistaken by the character Basil Fawlty for a hotel inspector), Worzel Gummidge (1980), Shillingbury Tales (1980) and its spin-off Cuffy (1983). Besides voicing The Wombles, Cribbins was a regular on BBC children's television in the 1970s as host of performance panel game Star Turn and Star Turn Challenge.

These programmes concluded with Cribbins narrating a detective story as recurring character "Ivor Notion", with a script usually by Johnny Ball but sometimes by Myles Rudge, the co-writer of his Top 10 singles. He starred in the BBC's 1975 Christmas production Great Big Groovy Horse, a rock opera based on the story of the Trojan Horse shown on BBC2 alongside Julie Covington and Paul Jones. It was later repeated on BBC1 in 1977. He regularly appeared on BBC TV's The Good Old Days recreating songs made famous by the great stars of Music Hall.

Among his later TV appearances were Dalziel and Pascoe (1999), Last of the Summer Wine (2003), Coronation Street (2003, as Wally Bannister) and Down to Earth (2005).

Cribbins starred as Jack in the series Old Jack's Boat, set in Staithes, and broadcast on the CBeebies channel starting in 2013. The cast included Helen Lederer, Janine Duvitski and former Doctor Who companion Freema Agyeman in supporting roles. Although Agyeman and Cribbins both played companions and supporting characters during David Tennant's tenure in Doctor Who (appearing in six episodes together), Old Jack's Boat was the first time the two actors have appeared together on screen. On 9 May 2015, Cribbins gave a reading at VE Day 70: A Party to Remember in Horse Guards Parade, London which was broadcast live on BBC1.

In November 2018, it was announced that Cribbins would portray Private Godfrey in a series of re-creations of lost episodes from the BBC sitcom Dad's Army. However, Cribbins left the production in February 2019 citing "personal reasons". The role of Godfrey was later played by Timothy West.

Later stage career

Cribbins' later theatre credits include the roles of Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre, Moonface Martin in Anything Goes with Elaine Paige at the Prince Edward Theatre, Dolittle in My Fair Lady at the Houston Opera House, Texas and Watty Watkins in George Gershwin's Lady, Be Good at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre and on tour. He also appeared in numerous pantomimes. He appeared in the BBC CBeebies Proms (Number 11 & 13) at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 26 & Sunday 27 July 2014 as Old Jack.

National Life Stories conducted an interview (C1173/14) with Cribbins on his memories of Richard Negri in 2006 for its An Oral History of Theatre Design collection held by the British Library.

Doctor Who

Having played Tom Campbell, a companion to Dr. Who in the feature film Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966), Cribbins returned to Doctor Who in 2006, when a photograph of him and fellow Doctor Who alumna Lynda Baron at a wedding appeared on the BBC's tie-in website for the television episode "Tooth and Claw".

In January 2007, Cribbins had a guest role as glam rock promoter Arnold Korns in Horror of Glam Rock, a Doctor Who audiodrama by Big Finish Productions. In December 2007, he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Christmas television special, "Voyage of the Damned"; he then appeared in a recurring capacity as the same character for the 2008 series, as the grandfather of companion Donna Noble. He became a Tenth Doctor temporary companion himself in "The End of Time", the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special, when his character was inadvertently responsible for that Doctor's demise. Cribbins's role as Wilfred Mott makes him the only actor to have played two companions, and the only actor featured alongside the Doctor's enemies, the Daleks, in both the TV and cinema versions of Doctor Who. Cribbins was set to return alongside David Tennant and Catherine Tate in a 2023 Doctor Who episode celebrating the programme's 60th anniversary, which he had been filming before his death in July 2022.


Cribbins was awarded the General Service Medal, with clasp "Palestine 1945–48", for his service in Palestine with 2/3 Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, on 30 May 1948, under Army Order 146 of 1947.

In 2009, Cribbins was honoured for his work in children's television with a Special Award at the British Academy Children's Awards which was presented by former co-star Catherine Tate, who portrayed his character's granddaughter in Doctor Who. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to drama. He received his OBE from the Princess Royal at an investiture in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle on 3 November 2011. In 2014, he was awarded the J. M. Barrie award for his "lasting contribution to children's arts".

Cribbins was named "British Icon of the Week" on 23 December 2020 by BBC America.

Personal life

Cribbins and his wife, actress Gillian, were married from 1955 until her death in October 2021. They lived in Weybridge, Surrey, and had no children, with Cribbins revealing in 2018 that they "lost one quite early on and that was the only time [they] got near it". He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, but said in 2018 that he was "in good health" at the age of 90 with the exception of a "nagging back condition".

In 2018 his autobiography, Bernard Who? 75 Years of Doing Just About Anything, was published by Constable. A successful social media campaign in 2022 led to his autobiography being recorded as an audiobook, with Cribbins as the narrator, but this was left uncompleted at the time of his death.

Cribbins died at the age of 93 on 27 July 2022.




Year Title Role Notes
1957 Yangtse Incident: The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst Sonar Operator/1st Cribbage Player
1958 Davy Stage Hand, Collins Music Hall Uncredited
Dunkirk Thirsty Sailor Uncredited
1959 Make Mine a Million Jack
Tommy the Toreador Paco
1960 Two-Way Stretch Lennie Price
The World of Suzie Wong Otis
1961 Passport to China Pereira
Nothing Barred Newspaperman
The Best of Enemies Col. Brownlow
1962 The Girl on the Boat Peters
The Fast Lady Man on Stretcher Uncredited
1963 The Wrong Arm of the Law Nervous O'Toole
The Mouse on the Moon Vincent Mountjoy
Carry On Jack Midshipman Albert Poop-Decker
1964 A Home of Your Own The Stonemason
Carry On Spying Harold Crump
Crooks in Cloisters Squirts
The Counterfeit Constable Bob, l'agent 202
1965 She Job
Cup Fever Policeman
You Must Be Joking Sgt. Clegg
1966 The Sandwich Man Harold – Photographer
Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. Tom Campbell
1967 Casino Royale Carlton Towers, Taxi Driver
1968 A Ghost of a Chance Ron
Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River Fred Davies
1970 The Railway Children Albert Perks
1972 Frenzy Felix Forsythe
1976 Night Ferry Pyramid
1978 The Water Babies Mr. Masterman/Voice of Eel
The Adventures of Picasso Gertrude Stein/Narrator
1981 Dangerous Davies – The Last Detective Dangerous Davies
1992 Carry On Columbus Mordecai Mendoza
2003 Blackball Mutley
2012 Run for Your Wife Hospital patient
A Fantastic Fear of Everything The Voice
2018 Patrick Albert
Woodland Narrator Short film


Year Title Role Notes
1956 David Copperfield Thomas Traddles
1960 Interpol Calling Episode: "Slow Boat to Amsterdam"
1961 Winning Widows
1965 Comedy Playhouse Ambrose Twomby Episode: "Here I Come Whoever I Am"
1966 The Avengers Arkwright Episode: "The Girl from Auntie"
1966–1991 Jackanory Storyteller 114 appearances
1973–1975 The Wombles Narrator and Voices All 60 episodes
1975 Fawlty Towers Mr. Hutchinson Episode: "The Hotel Inspectors"
1976 Space: 1999 Captain Michael Episode: "Brian the Brain"
1977 Play of the Month Pinchwife Episode: "The Country Wife"
Once Upon a Classic Pyramid Episode: "Night Ferry"
1979 The Plank House Painter TV film
1981 Shillingbury Tales Cuffy 2 episodes
Worzel Gummidge Jolly Jack Episode: "The Golden Hind"
1982 It's Your Move Neighbour TV film
1983 Tales of the Unexpected Charlie Krebs Episode: "The Memory Man"
Cuffy Cuffy Follett 6 episodes
1986 Langley Bottom Seth Raven 7 episodes
1987 High & Dry Ron Archer 7 episodes
Super Gran Officer P. Brain Episode: "Supergran and the Birthday Dambuster"
When We Are Married Herbert Soppitt TV film
1990 Bertie the Bat Narrator 10 episodes
1991 Tonight at 8.30 Mr. Wadhurst Episode: "Hands Across the Sea"
1996 Dennis and Gnasher Clint Katzenberger Voice; Episode: "Oil Strike"
1999 Dalziel and Pascoe Uncle Henry Episode: "Time to Go"
2000 The Canterbury Tales Carpenter Voice; Episode: "The Journey Back"
2003 Last of the Summer Wine Gavin Hinchcliffe Episode: "In Which Gavin Hinchcliffe Loses the Gulf Stream"
Barbara Frank "Guy Fawkes"
Coronation Street Wally Bannister 11 episodes
2005 Down to Earth Frank Cosgrove 3 episodes
2007–2010, 2023 Doctor Who Wilfred Mott 10 episodes
2013–2015 Old Jack's Boat Old Jack All 47 episodes
2014 Midsomer Murders Duggie Wingate Episode: "The Flying Club"
2015 New Tricks DCI Ronald Sainsbury 2 episodes
2016 A Midsummer Night's Dream Tom Snout TV film
The Wombles Great Uncle Bulgaria Voice; Episode: "Green Cake"

Selected audio roles

Year Title Role Notes
1980 Don Quixote Sancho Panza 2 episodes, BBC Radio 4
1988 The Wonderful Visit Vicar BBC Radio 4
1989 Fear on 4 Arnold Korns Episode: "Soul Searching" , BBC Radio 4
2001–2006 Father Gilbert Mysteries Bill Drake Focus on the Family Radio Theatre
2007 Doctor Who: Horror of Glam Rock Arnold Korns Big Finish Productions
2013 Neverwhere Old Bailey BBC Radio 4
2015 The Bed-Sitting Room Mate BBC Radio 4
2016 How the Marquis Got His Coat Back Old Bailey BBC Radio 4



Year Album Notes
1962 A Combination of Cribbins
1970 The Best of Bernard Cribbins
1975 Paddington Bear Volume 1 Narrator
Paddington Bear Volume 2 Narrator
Hans Andersen – Original Soundtrack Album
1983 The Snowman Narrator
2005 The Very Best of Bernard Cribbins

Chart singles

Year Title UK peak position Notes
1962 "Hole in the Ground" 9 One of Noël Coward's choices when guest on BBC Radio's Desert Island Discs
"Right Said Fred" 10 Inspired the name of the band of the same name
"Gossip Calypso" 25 Written by Trevor Peacock

See also

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