Bernard Cribbins: versatile artist loved by generations of children

Bernard Cribbins was one of the most versatile and popular entertainers of his generation, he managed to be a favorite on children’s television and starred in the raunchy Carry On films.

He could take on almost every aspect of show business, from Shakespeare to pantomime, from soap operas to pop music.

With his varied talents, he was always in demand, whether the role called for a simple or comedic performer, and in the 1970s and 80s, he was always on TV screens.


Veteran actor and presenter Bernard Cribbins has been loved by generations of television viewers (Nick Ansell/PA)

Cribbins, who died at the age of 93, was especially known for his work on the films The Railway Children and Jakanori.

Dame Floella Benjamin, children’s television elder, called it “a treasure for the children of our country”.

Bernard Cribbins was born in Oldham in December 1928 to World War I veteran father John Edward and mother Ethel.

Leaving school at the age of 13, he entered the world of show business and joined the Oldham Repertory Theatre, where he stayed for eight years, during which he completed his National Service in the Parachute Regiment.

After repertory work in London, Liverpool and Manchester, he made his West End debut in 1956 playing two Dromios in The Comedy of Errors.

This paved the way for more comedic stage roles, while Cribbins also showed off his creative muscles in other areas.

His film work around this time includes the 1963 film The Wrong Hand of the Law, which also starred Peter Sellers, and two Carry On films Jack and Spy, the latter of which was Dame Barbara Windsor’s first entry. in a franchise.


Bernard Cribbins had a varied career and was always by our screens during his heyday in the 1970s and 80s (Pennsylvania).

Cribbins also appeared in 1992’s Carry On Columbus, the final film in the series.

And he proved that acting is not his only talent.

His comedy singles “Hole In The Ground” and “Right, Said Fred” reached the top 10, while “Gossip Calypso” reached the top 30.

He remained proud of his musical output and told the PA news agency in 2009: “Hole In The Ground… here’s a little story for you – Noël Coward chose it as one of his discs on a desert island.

“He chose it as his only record if he only had one.”

Cribbins had a small role in the 1967 Bond parody film Casino Royale before landing the part for which he is perhaps best known.

In 1970, he starred in the film adaptation of The Children of the Railroad, playing station porter Albert Perks.

On television, he was the narrator for all 60 episodes of The Wombles and made at least 111 appearances on the children’s storytelling show Jakanori.

Having become a well-known face to younger viewers, Cribbins continued to appear regularly on more adult-oriented shows.

His later roles included Dalziel and Pascoe, Last of the Summer Wine and Coronation Street.

And in 2006, Doctor Who returned to the universe after playing the Time Lord’s companion in the 1966 film Invasion of the Daleks on Earth, 2150 AD.

He played Wilfred Mott in the show’s 2007 Christmas special alongside David Tennant as the Doctor and Kylie Minogue as his companion.


Bernard Cribbins Meeting the Queen (John Stilwell/PA)

Another appearance appeared in the 2009–2010 two-part Doctor Who issue.

It was rumored that in his younger years he was underestimated as a possible Doctor, but when asked, he dismissed the question with his typical wit.

He said, “I don’t think I was tall enough. Here it is. I would trip over that scarf all the time.

Cribbins, who played a spoon salesman opposite John Cleese in Fawty Towers and also worked with Alfred Hitchcock on the 1972 thriller Madness, was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to the dramatic arts.

Three years later, he was awarded the J. M. Barry Award for his work in children’s television.

The BBC’s director of children’s programming at the time, Joe Godwin, said: “Bernard was an important part of our childhood.”

Cribbins returned to storytelling with the preschool series Old Jack’s Boat in 2013, bringing his storytelling skills to a new generation.

The actor was cast in the remake of Dad’s Army as Private Godfrey, but was replaced by Timothy West when Cribbins left the role for personal reasons.

Working well into his 80s, Cribbins said, “I love it. I can not stop. Why should I?”

Cribbins married Jill in 1955, but for a man loved by generations of children, it was a painful twist of fate and the couple could not have their own.

“We lost one pretty early on and that was the only time we got close to it,” he told the Mirror in 2018.

“It was a long time ago. It’s just one of those things and I consider myself very lucky to have been given a job like Jakanori which was amazingly popular and gives you a very warm feeling when you think of all those who watched it in childhood.”

Reports in May said the actor was spotted filming alongside David Tennant and Catherine Tate for Doctor Who’s 60th birthday celebration next year.

Cribbins’ 66-year-old wife, Gill, died in 2021.