Yes Minister star Derek Fowlds dies aged 82

Friday 17th January 2020, 11:21am

Yes, Prime Minister. Bernard Woolley (Derek Fowlds). Copyright: BBC.

Derek Fowlds, who played Bernard Woolley in political sitcom Yes Minister, has died aged 82.

The actor passed away at Royal United Hospitals Bath this morning (17th January), after suffering with pneumonia.

His assistant, Helen Bennett says: "He was the most beloved man to everybody who ever met him, he never had a bad word to say about anybody and he was so well respected, adored by everyone. You couldn't have met a nicer person ever, he was just a wonderful man and I will miss him terribly."

Fowlds portrayed the mild mannered and highly diplomatic Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley in three series of Yes Minister, which ran from 1980 to 1984, and then two series of its sequel - Yes, Prime Minister - which was broadcast between 1986 and 1988.

He was the last surviving of the original Yes Minister stars. Paul Eddington, who played MP Jim Hacker, died in 1995, and Nigel Hawthorne - who played civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby - passed away in 2001.

Across his career, Fowlds was also much-loved for his roles as "Mr Derek" on The Basil Brush Show in the 1970s, and appeared as Oscar Blaketon in ITV's period police drama Heartbeat for 18 years.

His other comedy-related roles include Affairs Of The Heart and The Last Of The Best Men.

Born in Wandsworth, London, in 1937, Fowlds trained at the London's prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). His acting career began in 1958 in weekly rep, before making his West End stage debut in The Miracle Worker.

Fowlds went on to have roles in various films throughout the 1960s and became familiar to British television viewers in the 1970s when he replaced Rodney Bewes as the human sidekick in children's comedy-entertainment series The Basil Brush Show.

In his autobiography A Part Worth Playing, published in 2015, he said: "I was offered Yes Minister in 1979 and it was a huge hit. The scripts were brilliant, and Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne and I became close friends and had so many laughs. We used to film before a live audience on a Sunday evening, which was nerve-wracking."

He was first married to Wendy Tory, and then Blue Peter presenter Lesley Judd. His latest partner, Jo - whom he had been with for 36 years - died in March 2012. He is survived by two sons, Jamie and actor Jeremy Fowlds.

In an interview with The Stage published in September, he spoke about his professional job, appearing in weekly rep at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Colwyn Bay in 1958.

"Was it daunting to be thrown into that many shows at once? When you start off as an actor and get that first job I think it's excitement you feel more than nervousness so I wouldn't have done anything differently with the benefit of my experience now. But I do think I was so lucky to work with tremendous actors who taught me so much including Bill Weismer, Celia Hewitt, William Allen and Siobhan Keegan, with whom I shared that first season at Colwyn Bay."

He added: "My advice to young actors today would be to work hard whenever you can, but also to have fun and, whatever you do, don't take yourself too seriously. Always remember that an acting career is a marathon, not a sprint and I wish all of today's actors good luck with it."

Many people have taken to social media this morning to pay tribute to his talents, with the official Basil Brush Twitter account posting a moving status:

Here he is in action as Bernard Woolley:


Derek Fowlds - A Part Worth Playing

Derek Fowlds - A Part Worth Playing

The autobiography of Derek Fowlds, co-written with Michael Sellers.

First published: Monday 19th October 2015

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  • Released: Thursday 10th December 2015

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