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
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

LSA

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: To work as part of the Le...

KS1 Float Teacher needed in the Vale

£100 - £110 per day + Travel scheme plus free professional trainnig: Randstad ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Are you a qualified secondary...

KS2 Float Teacher required in Caerphilly

£100 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme plus free professional training: Randstad ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week