Brian Wilde: Foggy in 'Last of the Summer Wine'

In the long-running, gentle sitcom Last of the Summer Wine, Brian Wilde established himself as the best-loved "third man" among the ageing trio of eccentrics who whiled away the hours in the Yorkshire Pennines by recalling memories past, mulling over the trials and tribulations of the present, and – despite their years – making plans for the future. He had two spells with the BBC programme written by Roy Clarke, which did much for tourism in the West Yorkshire village of Holmfirth.

Wilde joined Last of the Summer Wine as Foggy Dewhirst in 1976, for its third series, to replace the actor Michael Bates, who had played Cyril Blamire since the 1973 pilot but had had to leave two years later after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Foggy was the perfect foil to Bill Owen's carefree, shabby Compo and Peter Sallis as the wry Cleggy. With quiet pomposity and sometimes bombastic mutterings, he introduced military tactics into their madcap adventures. He managed to clear the village café of customers with his recollections of jungle warfare and, at other times, would shock unsuspecting locals by jumping out from a secret lookout post while camouflaged.

Wilde even did some of his own stunts – once, with his leg in plaster, being put in a wheelchair at the top of a hill, which he then had to roll down. One of his favourite episodes was about the reopening of a railway line, which Foggy announced to his friends by blowing a whistle and waving a flag. "I liked it when the engine moved away and we thought Compo was on it and we looked round and he was standing next to us,"recalled Wilde. "The engine was going by itself and we all started running after it – that was a funny scene."

Wilde decided to leave in 1985 but was persuaded to return five years later, following the departure of Michael Aldridge, who had filled the gap by taking on the newly created role of the kind and gentle Seymour Utterthwaite. Wilde remained until 1997.

He later reflected: "When I returned to the show in 1990, it was like starting again. There were so many new faces. I'm not sure that I enjoyed the second lot as much as the first. I was older and less happy about location work."

Although Last of the Summer Wine provided Wilde with his longest-running television role, he is also remembered by viewers for another classic sitcom, Porridge (1974-77), starring Ronnie Barker as the old lag Fletcher, who cynically exploited the prison system. In a performance of understatement and subtlety, Wilde played Mr Barrowclough, the soft-centred and ineffectual prison warder who believed that those in jail would only learn trust by being shown trust.

"You had the old, hard-bitten warders who felt prisoners were inside to be punished, and a new wave of officers coming through who were interested in rehabilitating prisoners," said Wilde, reflecting on the different styles of Barrowclough and his superior, the governor played by Fulton Mackay.

Inevitably in a sitcom, Barrowclough was easily conned by Fletcher and other inmates. He would also confide in Fletcher about his domestic problems – caused by a wife who had affairs with the postman, a marriage-guidance counsellor and others.

Wilde's only regret about the role was that it never turned out to be as prominent as in the 1973 pilot, Prisoner and Escort, when Barrowclough was seen taking Fletcher to Slade Prison, in the wilds of Cumbria. "I had lots to do in it," he said, "whereas in other episodes I wasn't given so much, which was sad."

Born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, in 1927, Wilde grew up in Hertfordshire, then trained at Rada and gained a grounding in acting at repertory theatres. He worked his way up to the West End, appearing in the Peter Ustinov play The Moment of Truth (Adelphi Theatre, 1951), and soon landed small parts on screen, starting with the BBC murder-mystery Black Limelight (1952) and the film Street Corner (1953).

Wilde's first experience of sitcom was as Bob, flatmate of the title character – a danceband trumpeter, played by Michael Medwin – in The Love of Mike (1960). He later played the put-upon Mr Salisbury in Room at the Bottom (1967), the first television comedy to be written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey, with Kenneth Connor starring as a cunning maintenance man at the Saracens Manufacturing Company.

More successful was The Dustbinmen, the Jack Rosenthal-created comedy in which Wilde took over the role of Bloody Delilah, leader of the gang of refuse collectors, for the second and third series (1970). He was also frequently seen in popular dramas, including Z Cars (1963-65), Softly Softly (1966), Dixon of Dock Green (1966-67), The Avengers (1967) and The Troubleshooters (1967).

Wild later played the radio station boss Roland Simpson in the first series of the sitcom The Kit Curran Radio Show (1984), starring Denis Lawson as a disc jockey on a small local radio station.

Anthony Hayward

Brian Wilde, actor: born Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire 13 June 1927; married Eva Stuart (one son, one daughter); died Ware, Hertfordshire 20 March 2008.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power