Obituary:Eric Cullen

As "Wee Burney", the younger son of the foul-mouthed Scottish philosopher in the BBC2 comedy series Rab C. Nesbitt, the 4ft 4in actor Eric Cullen achieved national fame.

The star, Gregor Fisher, had taken the character of Rab from the cult series Naked Video to his own programme, complete with a family consisting of Elaine C. Smith as his wife Mary and Cullen and Andrew Fairlie as his revolting children Burney and Gash. While their father, forever wearing a string vest, would utter sexist diatribe in a Scottish accent as thick as broth, they would deal with problems such as rats in the kitchen by clubbing them to death with a frying pan.

Cullen made his television debut at the age of 13 as Wee Jaikie, one of the "Gorbals Diehards" in the BBC Scotland serial Hungtingtower, adapted from John Buchan's novel, attended drama college with his older sister and worked consistently as a child actor. His television appearances included roles in A Sense of Freedom (1981), the drama based on the murderer Jimmy Boyle's autobiography, Playfair, The Camerons, Govan Ghost Story and Deathwatch. He left school with no qualifications but went to college, then took a degree in social sciences at Glasgow Polytechnic with a view to a career in teaching.

Returning to acting, he appeared in the comedy sketch series A Kick Up the Eighties (1984) and alongside Robbie Coltrane and Tracey Ullman in Laugh, I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee, as well as with Rikki Fulton in Scotch and Wry. But he was best known for the role of Burney, which he first played in a 1988 Christmas Special, Rab C. Nesbitt's Seasonal Greet, the first spin-off from Naked Video. He acted in the first three full-length series of Rab C. Nesbitt (1990-93) and also appeared in a stage version which toured Britain in 1993.

Having made his name in the comedy, he became co- presenter - as "Norton Yernelly" - of a Scottish Television Sunday morning children's series, Wemyss Bay 902101 (1993), alongside Grant Stott, who has since joined Children's BBC.

Last year, Cullen was convicted of child pornography offences, when his own history of being sexually abused since the age of 13 was revealed, but his nine-month prison sentence was reduced to three years' probation on appeal. He had not worked since, but the writer of Rab C. Nesbitt, Ian Pattison, and the producer, Colin Gilbert, were planning at the time of Cullen's death to invite him to appear in one episode of the next series of the hit show.

Cullen's theatre work included appearances in Volpone, at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Pride of the Clyde, at the King's Theatres in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and a tour of George's Marvellous Medicine with Borderline Theatre Company.

He also appeared regularly in pantomimes including Mother Goose, The Gaiety Whirl, and Tom Thumb, all at the Gaiety Theatre, in Ayr, and also Babes in the Wood at the King's Theatre, Glasgow. He was a patron of the Volunteer Centre in Scotland and of the David Cullen Childhood Leukaemia Fund.

Anthony Hayward

Eric Cullen, actor: born 1965; died 16 August 1996.

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