Eric Longworth: Actor best known for playing the town clerk in 'Dad's Army'

Throughout a long career on stage and screen, Eric Longworth took scores of character roles, but it was the part of the town clerk in the popular television sitcom Dad's Army for which his balding head, moustache and spectacles became recognised. Between 1972 and 1977 Longworth played the role of Claude Gordon in eight episodes of the comedy about the inept Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard in Second World War Britain.

In one episode, Walmington residents planned to hold a carnival to raise money to buy a Spitfire – and its centrepiece was to be Lady Godiva on a horse. This caused uproar at a committee meeting chaired by the po-faced Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe). "Everyone is horrified," explained Jimmy Perry, who with David Croft wrote the much-loved sitcom, "until Mr Gordon explains that the lady in question will not be in the altogether but wearing 'fleshings', which will cover her from head to toe... The way Eric pronounced the word gave a whole new meaning to it: prim but, at the same time, lascivious. He would roll back his front teeth from his gums and smack his tongue against the roof of his mouth, and out would come the word, with a fine spray of spittle, 'flesh... ings!' "

Dad's Army began in 1968 and had become well established by the time Longworth joined the cast. The actor even understudied Arthur Lowe in a Dad's Army stage show (Shaftesbury Theatre, 1975-76), in which he also took the newly created, minor role of Private Woods, but he did not take part in a subsequent tour because of other commitments.

Eric Longworth was born in Shaw, Lancashire, in 1918. His childhood ambition to act was thwarted when his father, who worked as a salesman for a cotton mill, died. Required to earn money for his family, Longworth joined a local printing company as a salesman, but acted as an amateur with the Crompton Stage Society.

In 1946, after Second World War service in the Army, he was finally able to realise his acting hopes when he became an assistant stage manager with the repertory company at Oldham Coliseum; his first role was as a soldier in a translation of the Yuan dynasty Chinese play The Circle of Chalk. Longworth later became manager of the theatre (1951-57), before running Guildford Theatre (1957-63), until it was razed by fire and he returned to acting full-time.

Many of his TV bit-parts were as clerks, businessmen, policemen, doctors and politicians, in series including No Hiding Place (1963), Z Cars (1963, 1965), The Saint (1967), The Forsyte Saga (1967) and Softly Softly (1971); but he had a leading role as the husband of a murder victim whose killer was never found in the drama-documentary Who Killed Julia Wallace? (1975).

Longworth also took two different roles in Coronation Street. In 1967, he played a policeman on the scene after a goods train makes a fatal plunge into the street. Nine years later, he returned briefly as Nat Lumley, whose wife teamed up with Albert Tatlock at bingo sessions. When he entered the Rovers Return, he might have been expected to give the pensioner a thumping. Instead, he asked Albert to continue taking his wife to bingo – to give him peace at home.

Anthony Hayward

Eric Groves Longworth, actor: born Shaw, Lancashire 20 July 1918; married 1939 Dorothy Hirst (died 1995; four sons, and one son deceased); died Peterborough 20 August 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
The US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
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: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'