The actor died on Friday morning after a short illness, a representative told The Independent. He was at home surrounded by his family.
Born in Liverpool on 9 February 1936, to parents who owned a furniture shop in Bootle, Swift was a classically trained actor and member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
His first professional acting job was at Nottingham Playhouse, in the UK premiere of JB Priestley’s take the Fool Away, in 1959.
As a member of the RSC, he earned early critical praise in William Gaskill’s revival of Cymbeline, with Vanessa Redgrave as Imogen, and later for the 1966 production of The Tempest, in which he starred as Caliban opposite Timothy West’s Prospero.
He also starred in the BBC’s adaptation of the Barchester Chronicles. In December 2007 he appeared in the Doctor Who Christmas special “Voyage of the Damned” as Mr Copper, opposite Kyle Minogue. The episode was the most watched ever Doctor Who Christmas special.
The episode later became the subject of a viral moment when the actor was interviewed by Doctor Who magazine and came across as rather grumpy.
“Don’t you know shorthand?” a disgruntled Swift asked the journalist. “Why should I do this? I’m not getting paid, am I?”
Asked about his character, he responded: “You don’t need me to tell you that. Have you read the script? That’s what I perform. You can tell them about my character. What a silly question.”
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It was his role as Richard, the hen-pecked husband of Hyacinth Bucket (Patricia Routledge) for which he was best known. The sitcom followed Hyacinth's mostly ill-fated attempts to gain social standing with people she deemed to be upper class.
Explaining his character, Swift said: “The first thing I decided was if Richard was a really meek and submissive person, in a way there was no conflict, because he’d be just a bit of fluff for Hyacinth.
“So the first thing I had to do, as far as the writer allowed me, was to fight back – to protest. I know I used to lose 98 per cent of the time and there was no conflict really, but I had to put up a show or otherwise it’s simply not interesting.”
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