The eternal character actor whose face was more familiar than his name, Roy Heather will be best remembered as café owner Sid in Only Fools and Horses...., the John Sullivan sitcom creation that gave David Jason his most popular role, as Peckham wheeler-dealer “Del Boy” Trotter.
Sid’s Café, affectionately known as the “Fatty Thumb” and frequented by customers well known to south London police, was first seen in 1982, when Heather joined the programme for its second series. The scruffy, cigarette-smoking Sidney Robertson, who had criminal convictions for attempted poisoning and running an unhygienic establishment, appeared on and off over the coming years until the 2003 Christmas swansong, by which time Heather had clocked up 14 appearances. In 2001, Sid took over as landlord of the Nag’s Head pub.
Although he acted in only a small number of the 64 episodes, Heather made Sid part of the fabric of the community inhabited by “Del Boy” and his “plonker” younger brother, Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst). “I’ll never forget the way the director, Ray Butt, introduced me to the character of Sid,” Heather told the journalist Richard Webber in 2007. “He said he was a scruffy bugger who ran the local greasy café, before adding, ‘I think you’ll be just right!’”
Heather was born in Buckinghamshire, the son of Josiah, an engineer who worked for Dulux, and Doris, a housekeeper at Eton College. He acted in plays while at school in Slough then worked for an asbestos company before National Service in the RAF.
He became a sales rep for Hughes Brushes in Slough, but after the break-up of his first marriage, he took casual jobs, including running a market stall. At the same time he acted with the Riparians amateur dramatics group in Whitchurch-on-Thames, Berkshire.
At the age of 44, Heather was persuaded by his director friend David Tudor to turn professional. Tudor directed him in repertory productions at the Little Theatre, Sheringham, then at Henley Rep, where he acted alongside cult horror actress Ingrid Pitt in the world premiere of Aurelia (Kenton Theatre, 1979), Tudor Gates’s adaptation of the Jean-Paul Ferriere novel.
Heather also enjoyed his role as Pistol in the Peter Mottley play After Agincourt at the Southsea Arts Festival in 1986, and tours of Sink or Swim and See How They Run. During a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon (1991), he took small roles in The Virtuoso, Twelfth Night and Julius Caesar. Following his screen debut as a corporal in an episode of the sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum (1981), Heather was frequently in demand for bit parts on television. He switched effortlessly from comedy to drama and took as many as seven different roles (1985-2003) in The Bill. He reprised his Only Fools and Horses.... character in the Christmas 2005 episode of the sitcom spin-off The Green Green Grass for a scene in the Nag’s Head.
His other regular role on television was as Pops, a filthy old man among the losers frequenting the unnamed pub in both series of Time Gentlemen Please (2000-02), starring Al Murray in his pub landlord persona. Pops’s catchphrase was: “Look at his face – it’s a picture.”
Roy Heather, actor: born Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire 20 May 1935; married 1959 Doreen Marshall (divorced 1969; three sons), 1982 Sarah Vernon (divorced 1987), 1993 Sara Taylor; died Purbrook, Hampshire 3 September 2014.Reuse content