Richard Wilson (Scottish actor)

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"Richard Wilson (actor)" redirects here. For the Australian actor, see Richard Wilson (Australian actor).
Richard Wilson
Richard Wilson.jpg
Wilson in 2007.
Born Ian Carmichael Wilson
(1936-07-09) 9 July 1936 (age 79)
Greenock, Renfrewshire,
Nationality British
Occupation Actor, theatre director, broadcaster
Years active 1964–present
Notable work See below
Television Only When I Laugh
One Foot in the Grave
Born and Bred
Britain's Best Drives

Richard Wilson OBE (born Ian Carmichael Wilson; 9 July 1936) is a Scottish actor, theatre director and broadcaster, best known for playing Victor Meldrew in the popular BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave and for playing Gaius, the court physician of Camelot, in the hit BBC drama Merlin.

Life and career[edit]

Wilson was born in Greenock, Scotland. He studied science in Greenock, and did National Service with the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in Singapore. He worked in a laboratory[1] at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow as a research scientist before switching to acting at age 27. He trained at RADA and then appeared in repertory theatres in Edinburgh (Traverse Theatre), Glasgow and Manchester (Stables Theatre).

Wilson was awarded the OBE for services to drama as a director and actor in 1994. In April 1996, he was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow for a term of three years.[1]

Wilson has worked for the gay rights campaign group Stonewall[2] and the Labour Party.[3] He is one of the Patrons for Scottish Youth Theatre, Scotland's National Theatre "for and by" young people.[4] Wilson is also a long-time supporter of the Sense charity and in 2007 hosted the Annual Sense Awards, honouring excellence in both deafblind people and those who work with them.[5] He is also one of the Honorary Patrons of the London children's charity, Scene & Heard.[6]

The narration of "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus", from Strawbs' eponymous first album, was performed by Wilson.[7] Owing to the popularity of One Foot In The Grave, Wilson is still hounded by members of the public to say the classic "I don't believe it" catchphrase of the character Victor Meldrew – this was parodied when he appeared as himself in an episode of Father Ted.

At the height of his One Foot in the Grave fame, he appeared in an advertisement for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! in character, as Victor Meldrew. In it, he's confronted by a supermarket taste-test. In a break from tradition, he simply chose to believe that the product was indeed butter. His famous catchphrase, "I don't believe it!", was a response to one of the staff conducting the test, played by James Corden, eating all the crumpets on offer.

Wilson's biography, One Foot on the Stage: The Biography of Richard Wilson (ISBN 0752811150), was written by James Roose-Evans.[8]

He is a major supporter of the Labour Party, and he recorded the party's manifesto for the 2010 General Election.[9]

In March 2011, Wilson presented an edition of the Channel 4 current affairs programme Dispatches entitled Train Journeys From Hell, with transport journalist Christian Wolmar highlighting the failings of the British rail network.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Wilson was a supporter of his local football club, Greenock Morton, but he has come to lend greater support to English club Manchester United.[11] He is a patron of the Manchester United Supporters Trust.[12] Wilson has been a campaigner for gay rights for many years, and he came out as gay in a Daily Mail interview in March 2013.[13]



Stage acting[edit]

Theatre direction[edit]

Wilson won the TMA Best Director Award in 2000 for Mr Kolpert.[1]

Further reading[edit]

  • J. Roose-Evans, One Foot on the Stage: The Biography of Richard Wilson


  1. ^ a b c "Richard Wilson – Drama Faces". BBC. Retrieved 28 December 2008. [dead link]
  2. ^ Ahad, Nick (3 July 2011). "The big interview: Richard Wilson". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  3. ^ Young, Kevin (20 April 2010). "Election 2010: Political celebrities – then and now". BBC News. Retrieved 20 April 2010. 
  4. ^ "Scottish Youth Theatre website". 26 March 2008. Retrieved 7 August 2011. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Celebrity supporters of Sense". 24 June 2009. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "Scene & Heard – Who We Are". 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2010. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Strawbs website". 22 November 1968. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "One Foot on the Stage on Vialibri". Retrieved 7 August 2011. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Delay in Labour braille and audio manifesto criticised". BBC News (BBC). 15 April 2010. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  10. ^ "Train Journeys From Hell". Dispatches (Channel 4). 21 March 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  11. ^ Dugan, Emily (21 November 2010). "Richard Wilson: Retire? He doesn't believe in it". The Independent (UK: Independent Print). Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  12. ^ "Richard Wilson". Manchester United Supporters Trust. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  13. ^ Rebecca Hardy (2013-03-01). "Richard Wilson: 'I don't mind people saying I'm gay because I am' | Mail Online". Retrieved 2014-01-11. 
  14. ^ Richard Wilson On The Road Episode 2 | presscentre

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Johnny Ball
Rector of the University of Glasgow
Succeeded by
Ross Kemp