Only Fools And Horses star John Challis dies aged 79

Sunday 19th September 2021, 2:29pm

  • John Challis - best known for playing Boycie in Only Fools And Horses - has died aged 79
  • He had suffered a "long battle" with cancer and died peacefully in his sleep
  • He had been due to tour his Only Fools And Boycie live show this month
John Challis.

John Challis has died at the age of 79 after a battle with cancer, it has been announced.

The Only Fools And Horses favourite died "peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer", according to his family.

Best known as the sitcom's second hand car salesman Aubrey 'Boycie' Boyce, Challis also appeared in comedies including Open All Hours, Benidorm and Ever Decreasing Circles, as well as his OFAH character's own spin-off, The Green Green Grass.

A statement released this afternoon by the official Only Fools And Horses fan group reads: "It is with heavy hearts that we bring you such sad news. Our dear friend and yours, John Challis, has died peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer.

"He will always be loved for being 'Boycie' and leaves a great legacy of work that will continue to bring pleasure and smiles for many years to come.

"Please respect the privacy of John's family and friends at this difficult time, and be assured that in the future there will be an occasion to celebrate John's life - when everyone will be welcome to come along."

Challis's family has asked that, rather than sending flowers, any donations are sent to John's chosen animal charities: Cuan Wildlife Rescue, Tusk and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Challis had just started a tour of his one-man live show Only Fools And Boycie. He performed at Stourport Civic Hall on 3rd September, but was then forced to cancel the other 30 dates due to his deteriorating health.

Speaking in an interview ahead of the tour, he said of the format: "I talk about my Only Fools And Horses co-stars like Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst, my memorable encounter with The Beatles, and recall tales from my time in Doctor Who, Coronation Street and other TV classics", adding "It's always great to get the chance to go out on the road with the people who have been following us for so long."

Only Fools And Horses. Image shows from L to R: Marlene (Sue Holderness), Boycie (John Challis). Copyright: BBC.

Sue Holderness, who played Challis's on-screen wife, Marlene, said in a statement today: "Marlene without Boycie - it's unthinkable. R.I.P. darling John. I will miss you every day."

Born in Bristol in 1942, Challis's parents soon moved the family to south London. He went to school near Woking in Surrey and initially worked as an estate agent before taking up acting professionally.

Outside comedy, his extensive acting career took in film, stage, radio and television, with other credits including Z Cars, Doctor Who, Play For Today, Coronation Street, The Newcomers and Dixon Of Dock Green. He was also a regular pantomime star.

John Challis is survived by his fourth wife, Carol. He had no children, and had published two successful autobiographies, Being Boycie and Boycie & Beyond.

He also starred in 2020 documentary feature Boycie In Belgrade, exploring the enormous popularity of Only Fools And Horses in Serbia. The sitcom is reportedly the most-watched show in the Balkan nation, making Challis a well-known celebrity in the country. Earlier in the month he was made an honorary citizen.

Speaking about the honour, he said "I was just flabbergasted. It's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me really."


Boycie In Belgrade

Boycie In Belgrade

Join John Challis on his journey to the capital of Serbia, Belgrade, where he aims to uncover why Only Fools And Horses is so popular in the small Balkan nation.

Apparently it's the most watched show in Serbia, but why? Boycie is received in Serbia as almost a national hero, causing a media frenzy everywhere he goes on his voyage to learn about the people and the country. From a Royal Palace, to a brandy distillery, to a university teaching Cockney rhyming slang; the documentary will keep you entertained as well as discover what it is that unites this tiny Balkan state with British humour.

First released: Friday 4th September 2020

  • Released: Monday 14th June 2021
  • Distributor: Ignition

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John Challis: Boycie & Beyond

John Challis: Boycie & Beyond

John Challis knew he wanted to be an actor from the moment he saw Peter Pan live on stage, aged eight. His first book, Being Boycie, tells the story of how by 1984, in his forties and with two marriages behind him, he emerged as a leading character in the British TV comedy series, Only Fools & Horses.

Despite a third broken marriage, a struggle with alcohol and an unhappy affair, John continued to extend his career on stage and on TV. In 1990 he met Carol Davies, whom he married in 1995. Three years later they moved to the Welsh Marches where they now live happily in the remains of an ancient abbey.

Boycie and Beyond is the second volume of John Challis's autobiography. It covers the years 1985-2012 and describes his continuing love of live theatre, his third marriage to Sabina Franklyn and their subsequent painful divorce. He writes movingly of the death of his parents and hilariously of his venture into an aloe vera farm in Portugal and the eccentric Danish lover he met there.

John speaks frankly of his journey through a time of depression and too much drinking, and how meeting his future wife, Carol Davies, brought him out the other end. This time, he knew he'd found his life's partner and they were married in 1995. Since they moved in in 1998, John and Carol have largely restored Wigmore Abbey and its garden, while writer John Sullivan, who created Only Fools was inspired by visit there to write a spin-off series, The Green Green Grass, which went on to run for four series until 2009. In 2011 John appeared as Malvolio in an acclaimed production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at Ludlow Castle. Later that year, Being Boycie was published and has been enthusiastically received.

First published: Thursday 20th September 2012

John Challis: Being Boycie

John Challis: Being Boycie

The autobiography of John Challis, best known as Only Fools And Horses and The Green Green Grass's second-hand car dealer cum gentleman farmer, Boycie.

First published: Friday 30th September 2011

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