Bernard Cribbins

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Bernard Cribbins

Staithes MMB 20C Old Jack's Boat - Bernard Cribbins.jpg
Cribbins in September 2012
Born (1928-12-29) 29 December 1928 (age 92)
Oldham, Lancashire, England
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1943–present
Gillian McBarnet
(m. 1955; died 2021)

Bernard Joseph Cribbins OBE (born 29 December 1928) is an English actor and singer whose career spans seven decades.

During the 1960s, Cribbins became known in the UK for his successful novelty records including "The Hole in the Ground" and "Right Said Fred", and made appearances in comedy films including Two-Way Stretch (1960) and the Carry On series. He appeared as Albert Perks in The Railway Children (1970), as barman Felix Forsythe in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972) and as pretentious hotel guest Mr. Hutchinson in the Fawlty Towers episode "The Hotel Inspectors" (1975). He narrated the BBC children's television programme The Wombles (1973–1975) and was a regular and prolific reader for the BBC series Jackanory from 1966 to 1991.

Cribbins played Tom Campbell, a companion to Dr. Who in the 1966 film Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. 41 years later, he became the only actor to have played two separate companions when 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[edit]

Bernard Joseph Cribbins was born on 29 December 1928 in the Derker area of Oldham, Lancashire, the son of cotton weaver Ethel (née Clarkson; 1897–1989) and World War I veteran John Edward Cribbins (1896–1964).[1] He has two siblings, alongside whom he grew up close to poverty.[1] He described his father as a "jack of all trades" who also dabbled in acting.[1] 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 some small acting roles,[2][3] and then served an apprenticeship at the Oldham Repertory Theatre. In 1947, he commenced national service with the Parachute Regiment in Aldershot, Hampshire,[4] as well as Mandatory Palestine.[5]


Early career[edit]

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. He also starred in the revue And Another Thing, and recorded a single of a song from the show titled "Folksong".[6]

In 1962, three comic songs Cribbins had recorded were released and entered the UK Singles Chart. "The Hole in the Ground" was about an annoyed workman who eventually buries a harasser. "Right Said Fred" was about three workmen who struggle to move an unspecified heavy and awkward object into or out of a building.[4] Both these songs were produced by George Martin for Parlophone, with music by Ted Dicks and lyrics by Myles Rudge.[6] "Hole in the Ground" and "Right Said Fred" both reached the top 10 in the UK Singles Chart. The third and final Cribbins single of the year was "Gossip Calypso", which was another top 30 hit.[7]


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 filmsCarry On Jack (1963), Carry On Spying (1964) and Carry On Columbus (1992). 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 a taxi driver; The Railway Children (1970) as Mr Albert Perks, the station porter and the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Frenzy (1972) as Felix Forsythe. Later films include Dangerous Davies – The Last Detective (1981), Blackball (2003) and Run for Your Wife (2012).

Narration and voice work[edit]

Cribbins was the narrator of the British animated children's TV 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, he 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.[8] 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 (EMI) released a Swallows and Amazons audio book on tape cassette, read by Cribbins, abridged by Edward Phillips.[9]

Cribbins provided the voice of Harry Bailey, the landlord of the Tabard Inn described by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales, at the Canterbury Tales Attraction in Kent, which he recorded in 1987.

Cribbins undertook a short stint of voiceovers for the Mark and Lard Show on BBC Radio 1 where he explained made-up folk traditions.

Cribbins also provided the voiceover work for A Passion For Angling, starring Chris Yates and Bob James (1993).

In 2013, Cribbins played Old Bailey in the radio adaptation of Neverwhere, dramatized by Dirk Maggs.[10][better source needed]

In 2015, Cribbins 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 1983

Cribbins was the star of the ITV series Cribbins (1969–70).[8] 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.[11] It was later repeated on BBC1 in 1977.[12] He regularly appeared on BBC TV's The Good Old Days recreating songs made famous by the great stars of Music Hall.[13][14]

Among his later TV appearances are 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. This has featured Helen Lederer, Janine Duvitski and former Doctor Who companion Freema Agyeman in supporting roles.[15] 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 marks the first time the two actors have appeared together on screen.

On 9 May 2015 he 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.[16] However, Cribbins left the production in February 2019 citing 'personal reasons'. The role of Godfrey was later given to Timothy West.

Later stage career[edit]

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 has also appeared in numerous pantomimes.[4] 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.[17]

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.[18]

Doctor Who[edit]

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".[19]

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.[20] 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 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.[21]

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.[22][23] He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to drama.[24][25] In 2014, he was awarded the J.M. Barrie award for his "lasting contribution to children's arts".[26]

Cribbins was named ‘British Icon of the Week’ on 23 December 2020 by BBC America.[27]

Personal life[edit]

When he joined the Oldham Repertory, Cribbins met Gillian McBarnet, an aspiring actress. They were married from 1955 until her death on 11 October 2021.[28][29] They lived in Weybridge, Surrey,[30] 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".[1] 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".[1]


Source: [31]


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
2016 The Bed-Sitting Room Mate [32]
2018 Patrick Albert
2018 Woodland Narrator Short film,


Year Title Notes
1956 David Copperfield
1960 Interpol Calling "Slow Boat to Amsterdam"
1961 Winning Widows
1962 The Canterville Ghost Ghost of Sir Simon de Canterville (BBC Sunday-Night Play)[33]
1965 Here I Come Whoever I Am (Comedy Playhouse) – Ambrose Twomby
1966–95 Jackanory
1971, 1976 Get the Drift
1973–75 The Wombles (Voices)
1975 The Great Big Groovy Horse
1975 Fawlty Towers "The Hotel Inspectors"
1976 Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings (Narrator)
1976–78 Star Turn
1976 Space: 1999 "Brian the Brain"
1976 Once Upon a Classic "Night Ferry"
1977 Play of the Month Episode 97: "The Country Wife"
1979 The Plank
1980s The Further Adventures of Noddy "The Great Car Race" (Narrator)
1981 Shillingbury Tales
1982 The Good Old Days
It's Your Move
1983 Cuffy
1983 Moschops
1986 Langley Bottom
1987 When We Are Married
1987 High & Dry
1990 Bertie the Bat
1993 A Passion for Angling
1996 Dennis and Gnasher Clint Katzenberger (voice, "Oil Strike" episode)
1999 Dalziel and Pascoe "Time to Go"
2000 The Canterbury Tales "The Journey Back"
2002 Barbara "Ted's Shed"
2003 Last of the Summer Wine "In Which Gavin Hinchcliffe Loses the Gulf Stream"
2003 Coronation Street 11 episodes
2005 Down to Earth

"Hot Air"
"Tall Tales"

2007–10 Doctor Who

"Voyage of the Damned" (2007)
"Partners in Crime" (2008)
"The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky" (2008)
"Turn Left" (2008)
"The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End" (2008)
"The End of Time" (2009–10)
9 episodes

2009 Never Mind the Buzzcocks Doctor Who Special
2010 Catching the Impossible[34]
2010 Would I Lie to You?
2011 A Comedy Roast "Barbara Windsor: A Comedy Roast"
2011 Bookaboo "The Bears in the Bed and the Great Big Storm"
2013–15 Old Jack's Boat
2013 Doctor Who Live The Next Doctor
2013 Have I Got News for You -
2014 Midsomer Murders The Flying Club
2015 New Tricks Last Man Standing, Part One
Last Man Standing, Part Two
2016 A Midsummer Night's Dream BBC film (as Tom Snout)
2018 The Chase Celebrity Special Contestant


Chart singles[edit]

Year Title UK peak position[7] Notes
1962 "Hole in the Ground" 9 One of Noël Coward's choices when guest on BBC Radio's Desert Island Discs
1962 "Right Said Fred" 10 Inspired the name of the band of the same name
1962 "Gossip Calypso" 25 Written by Trevor Peacock


Year Album Notes
1962 A Combination of Cribbins
1970 The Best of Bernard Cribbins[35]
1975 Paddington Bear Volume 1 Narrator
1975 Paddington Bear Volume 2 Narrator
1975 Hans Andersen – Original Soundtrack Album
1983 The Snowman Narrator
2005 The Very Best of Bernard Cribbins


  1. ^ a b c d e "Bernard Cribbins reveals "warmth" of being kids star unable to have his own". 10 October 2018.
  2. ^ Hattenstone, Simon (24 July 2014). "Bernard Cribbins: 'I made Noël Coward's favourite record'". The Guardian.
  3. ^ "Bernard Cribbins, Lancashire's theatrical treasure". Lancashire Life. 9 February 2010.
  4. ^ a b c "Bernard Cribbins". Gavin Barker Associates. Archived from the original on 3 May 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  5. ^ "Roll Call: Private Bernard Cribbins, OBE". ParaData.
  6. ^ a b Dennis, Jon (2 May 2012). "Old Music: Bernard Cribbins – 'Right Said Fred'". The Guardian.
  7. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 127. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  8. ^ a b "BFI Screenonline: Cribbins, Bernard (1928–) Biography". Screenonline. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 September 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2020.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Neil Gaiman Neverwhere". Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  11. ^ "Great Big Groovy Horse – BBC Two England – 25 December 1975". The Radio Times (2719): 51. 18 December 1975. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Great Big Groovy Horse – BBC One London – 21 December 1977". The Radio Times (2823): 47. 15 December 1977. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  13. ^ "Star Turn Challenge [01/10/78]". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 9 December 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  14. ^ "Star Turn". UK Game Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  15. ^ "Media Centre – Old Jack's Friends". BBC. 14 January 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  16. ^ "Bernard Cribbins, the new Private Godfrey". The Oldie. 12 November 2018.
  17. ^ "BBC Proms 2014". BBC. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  18. ^ National Life Stories, 'Cribbins, Bernard (1 of 2) An Oral History of Theatre Design', The British Library Board, 2006. Retrieved 1 February 2018
  19. ^ "Weddings". Torchwood House. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  20. ^ "Into the Future!". Doctor Who Magazine. No. 386. 19 September 2007. p. 4.
  21. ^ Hodges, Michael (14 October 2018). "Last Post for veterans of Palestine revolt".
  22. ^ "2009 Children's Special Award". BAFTA.
  23. ^ "Bernard Cribbins recalls his classics". BBC News. 27 November 2009.
  24. ^ "No. 59808". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2011. p. 9.
  25. ^ "Bruce Forsyth Knighthood heads Queen's Birthday Honours". BBC News. 11 June 2011.
  26. ^ "Veteran BBC Star Bernard Cribbins awarded J M Barrie Award". BBC News. 10 December 2014.
  27. ^ "British Icon of the Week: 'Doctor Who' and 'The Wombles' Favorite Bernard Cribbins | Anglophenia". BBC America. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  28. ^ Watson, Fay (11 October 2021). "Bernard Cribbins devastated as TV legend announces 'devoted' wife Gillian has died". Daily Express.
  29. ^ Hogg, James [@JamesAHogg2] (11 October 2021). "Bernard Cribbins has asked me to announce that his wife Gillian passed away earlier today. They were married in 1955 and were devoted to each other. When chatting about their wedding day for his autobiography he talked for hours and didn't want the conversation to end. So sad" (Tweet). Retrieved 11 October 2021 – via Twitter.
  30. ^ Maxwell, Dominic (28 November 2018). "Bernard Cribbins — nearly 90 and still the nation's favourite uncle". The Times.
  31. ^ Bernard Cribbins | BFI
  32. ^ "The Bed-Sitting Room – Radio 4 Comedy Drama". Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  33. ^ "The Canterville Ghost (1962)". Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  34. ^ "Catching The Impossible Films". Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  35. ^ "Bernard Cribbins – The Best of Bernard Cribbins (Vinyl, LP)". Discogs.

External links[edit]