For the generation who grew up watching television in the early 1970s, Derek Fowlds will be best remembered as Basil Brush’s long-suffering sidekick Mr Derek, from 1969 to 1973.
Viewers in the 1980s will have known him as Bernard Woolley, the principal private secretary caught between Paul Eddington’s MP and Nigel Hawthorne’s permanent secretary, and later cabinet secretary, in Yes Minister (1980-84) and Yes, Prime Minister (1986-88). More recently, he was the cantankerous Oscar Blaketon in police drama Heartbeat, one of only two actors, alongside William Simons, to stay with the programme from its first episode in 1992 until its last in 2010.
Born in Balham, south London, Fowlds moved, aged three, to Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire where he began acting at school. He worked as an apprentice printer before serving in the Royal Air Force during national service, after which he gained a scholarship to RADA.
By the time he graduated with the Fabia Drake prize for comedy in 1960 he had already made his professional debut, spending the summer of 1958 in weekly rep at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Colwyn Bay.
His first West End appearance followed in 1961 in William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker, returning to Theatreland in Philip King’s How Are You, Johnnie? at London’s Vaudeville Theatre in 1963.
The same year he made his only Broadway appearance as 252 Wingate in John Dexter’s transferred Royal Court premiere of Arnold Wesker’s Chips With Everything.
After a spell with Braham Murray’s Century Theatre in Manchester, he was back in the West End in 1967 as a characteristically relaxed and subtle Leonidik in Aleksei Arbuzov’s The Promise at the Fortune Theatre, London.
The Stage described his 1969 Hamlet at the Northcott Exeter as being “in the modern idiom – an ordinary man”.
The 1970s began with Robert Marasco’s thriller Child’s Play (Queen’s Theatre, London, 1971) and Ronald Mavor’s A Private Matter, directed by Ian McKellen (Vaudeville Theatre, London, 1973).
In 1975, he shared the role of Macbeth with James Bolam and Alfred Lynch in Frank Dunlop’s concept-led production at the Young Vic and was seen in Alan Ayckbourn’s Confusions (Apollo Theatre, London, 1976).
Among his last stage appearances was as a guest narrator in Side by Side by Sondheim at the Novello Theatre, London, in 2006.
On television he was one half, with Jeanne Roland, of the married sleuths in Take a Pair of Private Eyes (1966), was seen in the eve-of-apocalypse drama Rules of Engagement (1989) and in the Billie Whitelaw comedy Firm Friends (1992-94). He was last seen on screen in daytime soap serial Doctors in 2017.
Notable films included East of Sudan (1964), Hotel Paradiso (1966) and Frankenstein Created Woman (1967).
He published an autobiography (co-written with Michael Sellers), A Part Worth Playing, in 2015.
Derek Fowlds was born on September 2, 1937 and died on January 17, aged 82.