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 16 as he reprised his role as Wilf

Bernard Cribbins death: Doctor Who actor dies aged 93 

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Much-loved actor and children’s TV star Bernard Cribbins – the voice and face of childhood for millions of Britons – 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.

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies led the tributes today and declared: ‘A legend has left the world’, telling Instagram that Mr Cribbins was as comfortable doing comedy as he was doing sci fi and Shakespeare.

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 and Peter Sellers, 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. He joined the Old Rep in Birmingham aged just 14 and worked in the arts for more than seven decades aside from a spell in the Parachute Regiment after the Second World War.

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 and Jackanory, 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. He said of The Railway Children: ‘If you don’t shed a tear when she shouts, “Daddy, my daddy” you’re made of wood. I always well up when I watch it’.

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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 16 as he reprised his role as Wilf

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 16 as he reprised his role as Wilf

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

Cribbins, who starred as Wilfred Mott in the sci-fi programme from 2007 to 2010, was remembered by Russell T Davies on Instagram as "an old soldier" and 'legend'

Cribbins, who starred as Wilfred Mott in the sci-fi programme from 2007 to 2010, was remembered by Russell T Davies on Instagram as "an old soldier" and 'legend'

Cribbins, who starred as Wilfred Mott in the sci-fi programme from 2007 to 2010, was remembered by Russell T Davies on Instagram as ‘an old soldier’ and ‘legend’

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

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, 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

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

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

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

Bernard with John Cleese in Fawlty Towers where he played an obnoxious spoon salesman that Basil wrongly believed was a hotel inspector

Bernard with John Cleese in Fawlty Towers where he played an obnoxious spoon salesman that Basil wrongly believed was a hotel inspector

Bernard with John Cleese in Fawlty Towers where he played an obnoxious spoon salesman that Basil wrongly believed was a hotel inspector

Bernard Cribbins poses with his Officer of the British Empire (OBE) medal after receiving it during an Investiture ceremony with Princess Anne at Windsor in 2011

Bernard Cribbins poses with his Officer of the British Empire (OBE) medal after receiving it during an Investiture ceremony with Princess Anne at Windsor in 2011

Bernard Cribbins poses with his Officer of the British Empire (OBE) medal after receiving it during an Investiture ceremony with Princess Anne at Windsor in 2011

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

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

1947: The actor volunteered for The Parachute Regiment in after being called to the Army for national service after the Second World War

1947: The actor volunteered for The Parachute Regiment in after being called to the Army for national service after the Second World War

1947: The actor volunteered for The Parachute Regiment in after being called to the Army for national service after the Second World War

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has paid tribute to Bernard Cribbins following his death at the age of 93, saying: ‘A legend has left the world.’

Cribbins, who starred as Wilfred Mott in the sci-fi programme from 2007 to 2010, was remembered by Davies on Instagram as ‘an old soldier’.

Alongside a picture of the veteran actor with his face poking through the hole of a fake brick wall, he wrote: ‘Bernard Cribbins (1928-2022) I love this man. I love him. That’s him as Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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‘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 TH 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 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.’

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.

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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.

1958: Bernard Cribbins in a scene from 'Lady At The Wheel', a musical comedy playing at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith

1958: Bernard Cribbins in a scene from 'Lady At The Wheel', a musical comedy playing at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith

1958: Bernard Cribbins in a scene from ‘Lady At The Wheel’, a musical comedy playing at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith

Mr Cribbins, pictured in 1960, starred in hundreds of TV shows and films in an extraordinary career

Mr Cribbins, pictured in 1960, starred in hundreds of TV shows and films in an extraordinary career

Mr Cribbins, pictured in 1962, starred in hundreds of TV shows and films in an extraordinary career

Mr Cribbins, pictured in 1962, starred in hundreds of TV shows and films in an extraordinary career

Mr Cribbins, pictured left in 1960 and right in 1962, starred in hundreds of TV shows and films in an extraordinary career 

1965: Bernard Cribbins (right) and Peter Cushing (left) comfort John Richardson (centre) in a scene from the film 'She

1965: Bernard Cribbins (right) and Peter Cushing (left) comfort John Richardson (centre) in a scene from the film 'She

1965: Bernard Cribbins (right) and Peter Cushing (left) comfort John Richardson (centre) in a scene from the film ‘She

1970: Bernard Cribbins with actresses, Sally Thomsett (left) and Jenny Agutter, filming The Railway Children on location

1970: Bernard Cribbins with actresses, Sally Thomsett (left) and Jenny Agutter, filming The Railway Children on location

1970: Bernard Cribbins with actresses, Sally Thomsett (left) and Jenny Agutter, filming The Railway Children on location

Bernard could count stars of stage of screen as friends including Joan Collins and even The Beatles

Bernard could count stars of stage of screen as friends including Joan Collins and even The Beatles

Bernard could count stars of stage of screen as friends including Joan Collins and even The Beatles

2004: The Queen at the Children's Trust, Tadworth, Surrey, where she greeted a line-up of celebrities including, TV presenter Michael Aspel, Illustrator, Tony Hart and Mr Cribbins

2004: The Queen at the Children's Trust, Tadworth, Surrey, where she greeted a line-up of celebrities including, TV presenter Michael Aspel, Illustrator, Tony Hart and Mr Cribbins

2004: The Queen at the Children’s Trust, Tadworth, Surrey, where she greeted a line-up of celebrities including, TV presenter Michael Aspel, Illustrator, Tony Hart and Mr Cribbins

2006: Bernard Cribbins and fellow legend Eric Sykes at the SPARKS Rick Wakeman Golf Day held at Burhill Golf club

2006: Bernard Cribbins and fellow legend Eric Sykes at the SPARKS Rick Wakeman Golf Day held at Burhill Golf club

2006: Bernard Cribbins and fellow legend Eric Sykes at the SPARKS Rick Wakeman Golf Day held at Burhill Golf club

2010: Bernard Cribbins arriving at Waterloo Station, London onboard the 66 tonne Stirling Single, the train used in the original Railway Children film

2010: Bernard Cribbins arriving at Waterloo Station, London onboard the 66 tonne Stirling Single, the train used in the original Railway Children film

2010: Bernard Cribbins arriving at Waterloo Station, London onboard the 66 tonne Stirling Single, the train used in the original Railway Children film

2010: Bernard Cribbins and David Tennant collecting the award for best Drama received for Dr Who during the National Television Award

2010: Bernard Cribbins and David Tennant collecting the award for best Drama received for Dr Who during the National Television Award

2010: Bernard Cribbins and David Tennant collecting the award for best Drama received for Dr Who during the National Television Award

2014: The cast got back together after more than 40 years after the show. Bernard Cribbins with fellow cast members of The Railway Children, (left to right) Deddie Davies, Gary Warren and Jenny Agutter

2014: The cast got back together after more than 40 years after the show. Bernard Cribbins with fellow cast members of The Railway Children, (left to right) Deddie Davies, Gary Warren and Jenny Agutter

2014: The cast got back together after more than 40 years after the show. Bernard Cribbins with fellow cast members of The Railway Children, (left to right) Deddie Davies, Gary Warren and Jenny Agutter

2014: Mr Cribbins reading an excerpt from Winnie the Pooh after he received the annual J M Barrie Award

2014: Mr Cribbins reading an excerpt from Winnie the Pooh after he received the annual J M Barrie Award

2014: Mr Cribbins reading an excerpt from Winnie the Pooh after he received the annual J M Barrie Award

‘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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