Arnold Peters: The voice of Jack Woolley in 'The Archers'

 

For more than 30 years Arnold Peters was the familiar voice of Jack Woolley, the businessman in The Archers, the world's longest-running radio soap opera. Woolley was a pillar of society in Ambridge, the fictional village in which the programme is set, owning a number of the landmarks in the area, including a hotel, café, shop, as well as a share in the local newspaper.

"He loved acting," said June Spencer, who played Woolley's third wife, Peggy Archer. "It was his life. As an actor he was the complete pro. He was very conscientious. He always turned in a good performance, no matter what we were doing."

Peters was born Peter Gadd in Hendon in 1925 and grew up in Northamptonshire, where he attended Wellingborough School. His love of theatre came from his parents, who would stage mini-productions at home, while he would rig up the house wireless set with a microphone to create his own radio broadcasts.

Following a brief period in the RAF he joined the Northampton Repertory Theatre, working there for five years after the war. He then went on to the BBC Drama Repertory Company, based in Birmingham, which led to his radio debut on Children's Hour.

Peters first joined the cast of The Archers in 1953 and initially played two other characters: the farmhand Len Thomas, a role he had for 13 years, and the Reverend David Latimer (1968-1973). He took over the role of Jack Woolley in May 1980 following the death of Philip Garston-Jones, who had played him for the previous 18 years.

As the local businessman he was at various times the proprietor of the Grey Gables Hotel, the Borchester Echo and Jaxx Café. His proudest moment was the unveiling of the Jack Woolley Pavilion at the Ambridge Cricket Ground, named in his honour. He could be a hard-dealing individual but also showed his philanthropic side when he rescued the village shop at a time of crisis. Over the years, and as his health changed, Woolley decided to divest himself of his businesses, leaving them in the hands of other Archers characters. Woolley became a part of the Archer family when he married Peggy Archer in 1991, with his Staffordshire bull terrier, Captain, serving as guest of honour at the wedding, dressed up in a blue bow.

Peters' other roles included as a shopkeeper in Dennis Potter's Pennies from Heaven (1978), an advertisement for Werther's Original sweets, in which he played the kindly grandfather, and an episode of Only Fools and Horses (1986). An enthusiastic supporter of the dramatic arts, he worked with the team involved in creating the 500-seat The Castle theatre in Wellingborough, in the run-up to its opening by Jeremy Irons in March 1995. He had been a keen amateur musician throughout his life, since playing in a band during his schooldays.

Around 2003, when Peters began to experience the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, he and the programme's writers decided to merge real life and fiction, weaving his condition into the Archers plot. Until that time Alzheimer's had been discussed in documentaries on radio and television but seldom in the context of a radio drama.

The chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, Jeremy Hughes, commented: "For Arnold Peters to play the part of someone living with Alzheimer's disease when art was truly imitating life took great strength and courage. The Archers was one of the very first programmes to depict dementia in a storyline." The show won a Mental Health Media award in 2007 in recognition of its sensitive handling of the issue.

For the recording of Peters' last Archers speaking role, in July 2011, the production team and cast visited Peters rather than have him come to the studio. "We went to see him in his retirement home," June Spencer recalled. "His memory was failing but he could still turn in a good performance. He read it perfectly. We worked together just as we'd always done, up to the last." Following this episode Peters remained a part of The Archers, but as a silent character, whose health was mentioned from time to time.

The editor of The Archers, Vanessa Whitburn, said, "Arnold was immensely successful as Jack Woolley. With enormous skill he took the character from sharp, sometimes ruthless, businessman, mellowing through the years into retirement and eventual dependence on his wife Peggy as Alzheimers set in. Only the best actors can fine-tune those character arcs over many years, and Arnold was the best."

Peter Reginald Gadd (Arnold Peters), actor: born Wollaston, Northamptonshire 3 June 1925; married Beryl (one daughter); died 11 May 2013.

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
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 General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game