Bye Bye Mr Derek


I hope this isn’t going to start being a habit, like in 2016, writing recollections of the good, the great and the memorable. One year like that was enough for a lifetime. But for a second successive night I’m paying tribute to someone we’ve lost.

I go back far enough to remember Derek Fowlds as Mr Derek, yes, on The Basil Brush Show, which memory plants firmly as being on Friday afternoons, the last offering of Children’s television before the adults took over with the news. But I never watched him in Heartbeat, which provided him with a comfortable and stable old age.

No, I will always remember Derek Fowlds as Bernard Woolley, the dry, pedantic Principal Private Secretary on Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister, forever caught between the twin masters Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey Appleby, in one of the funniest and most intelligent sitcoms ever to come out of Britain. Now Fowlds is gone, we have lost all three stars of this dryest of witty shows.

Notoriously, actual Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once insisted on playing a political sketch, written by Number 10, not Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, to be read with Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne. It was put out that there simply wasn’t a part from Fowlds, but I am cheered immensely to learn today that the truth was that he would not appear with her.

Good guys always go, though sometimes they stay with us a long, long time: Fowlds was 82. Our only consolation is that, in a primitive way of balancing things out, the other sort eventually go as well. Derek Fowlds lives forever as Bernard Woolley, a good legacy.

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