Peter Gilmore: Actor who found fame on the stage and as hero of 'The Onedin Line'

 

The rugged good looks of Peter Gilmore set female hearts a-flutter for an entire decade when he starred on television as the mutton-chopped Captain James Onedin, gruff hero of The Onedin Line (1971-80). The actor grew side-whiskers for the role of a man running a late 19th-century Liverpool shipping line, battling to stay solvent as he watched his brother prosper while building up a profitable department store from the shop left to him by their father and his sister inherit the family cottage and marry into money.

With only £25 to make his fortune, James invested it in the three-masted, top-sailed schooner Charlotte Rhodes – which was the other star of the drama – sold to him on condition that he married the seller's daughter, Anne (played by Anne Stallybrass). He set up the Onedin Line in direct competition to his former employer and proved ruthless in his business dealings as he built up a fleet. When Stallybrass wanted to return to theatre acting, Anne died at the end of the second series while giving birth to a daughter, Charlotte. James ended up being married three times – as did Gilmore when he eventually wed Stallybrass.

The Onedin Line, an original idea by Cyril Abraham which spawned five novels, was one of television's most enduring period dramas, with the theme music, Aram Khatchaturian's Spartacus, proving to be another popular element. As the programme reached audiences in 70 countries, Gilmore rode the crest of this wave of success. He claimed that he spent half his time abroad during the 1970s, making public appearances and receiving gifts such as boats in bottles and handkerchiefs embroidered with reef knots. The drama finally ended with James's third wife giving him a son and heir, born aboard ship, while his sister's second husband died at sea. When Gilmore's acting career subsequently faltered, he blamed it on being typecast as Captain Onedin. In the 1990s, he retired through ill health.

Born in Germany, the son of a commercial traveller, Gilmore was sent to England at the age of six to live with relatives in Nunthorpe, near York. He attended the Friends' School, run by the Quakers at nearby Great Ayton. He left at 14, headed for London and worked in a factory. Eventually he saw the chance to realise his dream of becoming an actor when he signed up for a preparatory course at Rada – but he was expelled after just two terms.

While doing National Service in the Army, Gilmore had another chance to fulfill his ambition. Helping to stage variety shows to entertain the troops, he discovered he had a talent for singing. After being demobbed he toured with the George Mitchell Singers. He made his acting début as a stooge in a variety show in 1952 and, two years later, his first London appearance, in the revue You'll Be Lucky (Adelphi Theatre).

For the next two years, Gilmore performed in the revue Jokers Wild (Victoria Palace Theatre, 1954-56), which starred the Crazy Gang, a group of comedy double acts that included Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen. This was followed by the role of Tom in a tour of Star Maker (1956), featuring Cicely Courtneidge and Jack Hulbert.

Gilmore found his niche in stage musicals but had difficulty in landing a box-office success. He played Peter Haines in the motor-racing yarn Lady at the Wheel (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, and Westminster Theatre, 1958), before being cast as Freddy Eynsford Hill in the original West End production of My Fair Lady, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, only to be replaced shortly before it opened because the part was written for a tenor and he was a baritone. He battled on as the shepherd David Tooke in Valmouth (Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, 1958, and Saville Theatre, 1959) and Leander in The Love Doctor (Piccadilly Theatre, 1959), which, despite a cast featuring Ian Carmichael and Joan Heal, closed after just 16 performances.

Some success came with Gilmore's first lead role in the West End, as Tom, opposite Susan Hampshire, in Follow that Girl (Vaudeville Theatre, 1960). His display of youthful masculinity led him to record a pop-style single of the title song, although he had already given his vocal talents to albums, which he continued to do over the next 26 years. Boosted by the popularity of The Onedin Line, he was to record the albums Songs of the Sea (1974) and Peter Gilmore Sings Gently (1977).

His other West End musical roles were Matt, one of the young lovers, in the short-lived The Fantasticks (Apollo Theatre, 1961), Ramble in a revival of Lock Up Your Daughters (Mermaid Theatre and Her Majesty's Theatre, 1962), Sir Lucius O'Trigger in All in Love (Mayfair Theatre, 1964) and Captain Macheath in The Beggar's Opera (Apollo Theatre, 1968), another revival. By then he had notched up a decade of television roles, having made his screen début in an episode of Ivanhoe in 1958. That was also the year in which he appeared in the pop show Cool for Cats and met and married Una Stubbs, then one of the Dougie Squires Dancers and later a star of the sitcom Till Death Us Do Part.

Gilmore also featured in 11 Carry On films (1963-92). He was never one of the "name" stars but could often be spotted in the background messing around. His roles ranged from a petty gangster in Carry On Cabby (1963) and pear-eating ambulance driver in Carry On Doctor (1967) to King Francis of France in Carry On Henry (1971) and Governor of the Canaries in Carry On Columbus (1992).

The actor was also seen as Dr Kitaj in the horror film The Abominable Doctor Phibes (1971) and on television as Brazen, the doomed security chief of a distant human colony, in the Doctor Who adventure "Frontios" (1984) and circus owner Ben Bishop in the second series of the zoo vet drama One by One (1985). His final screen role was in the television film On Dangerous Ground (1996), based on the Jack Higgins thriller. In 1970, a year after his divorce from Stubbs, Gilmore married Jan Waters, who appeared with him on stage in The Beggar's Opera. Following their divorce, Gilmore lived with Anne Stallybrass, whom he married in 1987.

John Peter Gilmore, actor and singer: born Leipzig 25 August 1931; married 1958 Una Stubbs (divorced 1969; one adopted son), 1970 Jan Waters (divorced 1976), 1987 Anne Stallybrass; died London 3 February 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?