Gordon Piper

Bumbling, good-hearted handyman Bob Hatfield in 'A Country Practice'

Gordon Stephen Piper, actor and director: born Sydney, New South Wales 3 June 1932; died Sydney 15 September 2004.


For almost all its screen history, the Australian television serial
A Country Practice featured Gordon Piper as the fictional Wandin Valley's plumber and all-round handyman, Bob Hatfield, complete with bib-and-brace overalls and broad smile.
A Country Practice ran between 1981 and 1992 and is still broadcast around the world.

Gordon Stephen Piper, actor and director: born Sydney, New South Wales 3 June 1932; died Sydney 15 September 2004.

For almost all its screen history, the Australian television serial A Country Practice featured Gordon Piper as the fictional Wandin Valley's plumber and all-round handyman, Bob Hatfield, complete with bib-and-brace overalls and broad smile. A Country Practice ran between 1981 and 1992 and is still broadcast around the world.

Hatfield was most frequently seen on screen with Syd Heylen, who played Cookie, the bartender at Bob's favourite retreat, the Wandin Valley RSL Club, and together they gave the soap opera many comic moments. The pair frequently came up with money-making schemes that backfired, from taking up dog training to selling perfume.

Hatfield's fondness for beer sometimes landed him in brawls, but he was good-hearted and a believer in community spirit. Piper relished acting all sides of Bob:

He was a father figure, he was a grandfather figure, he was a drunk, he was a fun character, he had empathy for everyone. He was a leader of the town. Everything that comes through the spectrum of a part is found in Bob Hatfield.

Piper's screen partnership with Heylen hid friction between the two actors, Piper revealed:

A lot of people think we were great mates. We weren't great mates at all. We fought like cat and dog in the studio - I mean really fought, heavy. On lines, interpretations, remembering the lines. We had a lot of fights but, once we went back to the dressing room, we were old chums.

Piper was born at his parents' dairy farm in the Sydney suburb of Cheltenham in 1932 and sang as a soprano with the Sydney Boys' Choir. He made his radio début with a choir on the Sydney station 2CF at the age of 12. Acting parts followed in radio plays, before Piper started his own variety act in 1952.

Two years later, he and his friend Ted Harlow formed a song-and-dance mime act, The Pretenders, touring clubs and pubs. Piper then spent four years as an extra in television, before becoming a fully fledged stage actor. He was also associate director attached to the Arts Council of New South Wales (1964-72), helping to develop amateur productions at theatres in rural areas.

Then came his longest-running stage role, as Angus McAdam in the pioneering Australian Performing Group's record-breaking run of Dimboola (1973-76), the writer Jack Hibberd's parody of a wedding reception, which has since become Australia's most performed play. It was the director Gillian Armstrong's acclaimed film My Brilliant Career (1979), in which he played a bartender, that brought Piper's face to international audiences, albeit briefly, before he joined A Country Practice.

In 1992, after 900 episodes of the twice-weekly serial, Piper and Syd Heylen were axed when market research indicated that viewers wanted to see younger characters. In fact, A Country Practice was itself axed a year after Piper and Heylen's departure and a brief revival in 1994 failed to attract viewers.

Piper subsequently concentrated on directing. A resident of Sydney's western suburb of Penrith, he was a member of the local Henry Lawson Theatre, until ill-health forced him to stop two years ago. Diabetes had by then affected his heart and circulation, leading to five heart attacks and the amputation of both his legs.

In 1999, Piper was cleared of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl, and the experience of being falsely accused left him bitter.

Anthony Hayward

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

King's College, Cambridge: Stipendiary Junior Research Fellowships October 2016

£20,000-40,000: King's College, Cambridge: King's College wishes to appoint th...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Back End

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Recruitment Genius: Online Lettings Negotiator

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join ...

Guru Careers: Trainer / IT Trainer

£30 to £32k : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Trainer / IT Trainer to join an a...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'