After 59 years, the voice of Phil Archer dies

Norman Painting, the voice of Phil Archer for 59 years on the Radio 4 soap The Archers, died yesterday at the age of 85.

The actor was found by his carer at his cottage in the Oxfordshire village of Warmington. Born in Leamington Spa in 1924, Painting had played the Ambridge farmer since the show's trial run in 1950. He is featured in The Guinness Book of Records as the longest-serving actor in a single soap. In recent years, though, his appearances on The Archers have been limited due to ill health.

His most recent appearance on the show was in September, but he spent what was to be his final day in the studio on 20 October. His final episode will be broadcast on 22 November, when the character will be surrounded by his grandchildren preparing for Christmas.

Painting was a graduate of Birmingham University, a former Oxford tutor, an opera director, and actor with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. He also made regular appearances in pantomimes. He received an OBE in 1976, and his autobiography Reluctant Archer was published in 1982.

His character Phil Archer began his journey as the younger son of Dan and Doris Archer, but eventually became master of Brookfield Farm and patriarch of the Archer clan. Painting also wrote more than 1,200 of the 16,000 Archers episodes under his pen name, Bruno Milna.

Mark Thompson, BBC director general, said he was "deeply saddened" to learn of the actor's death, and Vanessa Whitburn, The Archers' editor, described Painting as a "consummate professional". She said: "Under his sure hand, Phil graduated seamlessly from young romantic hero to serious farmer and father – holding Brookfield together in good times and bad, handing over the farm to eldest son David in 2001."

In 2000, Painting revealed he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, but was determined it would not mean the end of Phil Archer. "I see no reason why this illness should prevent me from continuing doing what I love," he said at the time.

His character was involved in many of the show's key storylines over the years, but his most dramatic moment came in 1955 when his first wife Grace died in a barn fire while trying to save a horse.

Recalling the episode on its 50th anniversary, Painting said: "Even when I'd read my script, I didn't really believe it was going to happen." When it aired, the episode clashed with ITV's first broadcast – many people suspected it was not a coincidence.

The Archers began in the days of food rationing, with the intention of encouraging Britain's farmers. Painting was originally recruited to write a week-long trial run of the programme, but found himself cast as one of its principal characters. After three months he tried to resign to return to more serious pursuits. His request fell on deaf ears.

In contrast to his Ambridge persona as the father of Shula, Kenton, David and Elizabeth – and grandfather of Pip, Daniel, Josh and the Pargeter twins – Painting was a lifelong bachelor.

Life and Style
health

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
i100
News
Privately schooled, Oxford educated and a former editor of arguably the world's poshest magazine 'The Lady', it's perhaps unsurprising that Rachel Johnson rarely mixes with ordinary Proles.
people

The Mayor of London's sister, Rachel Johnson, apologises for shocking tweet about the PM

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environmentNepenthes zygon had been growing for almost a decade and helping to keep down cockroaches
News
This artist impression shows a modern-day Atlantis
news
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer snapped celebrities for 40 years - but it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Search Account Manager

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Guru Careers: PR Account Manager / PR AM

£28 - 34k: Guru Careers: An ambitious PR Account Manager is needed to join a c...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital