Bernard Cribbins, star of The Railway Children and Doctor Who, dies aged 93

ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent reports on the remarkable seven-decade career of Bernard Cribbins

Bernard Cribbins, who narrated The Wombles and starred in the film adaptation of The Railway Children, has died aged 93, his agent said.

The veteran actor also starred in Doctor Who, several Carry On movies and had roles in Coronation Street, as well as many others films and programmes.

A statement from Gavin Barker Associates said: “Beloved actor Bernard Cribbins OBE has passed away at the age of 93.

“His career spanned seven decades with such diverse work ranging from films like The Railway Children and the Carry On series, hit 60s song Right Said Fred, a notorious guest on Fawlty Towers and narrating The 1970s children programme The Wombles.

“He worked well into his 90s, recently appearing in Doctor Who and the CBeebies series Old Jack’s Boat. He lost his wife of 66 years, Gill, last year.

“Bernard’s contribution to British entertainment is without question. He was unique, typifying the best of his generation, and will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing and working with him.”

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Tributes flood in for 'legend' Cribbins

Tributes have poured in across social media for the beloved actor, including from Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies.

Cribbins, who starred as Wilfred Mott in the sci-fi programme from 2007 to 2010, was remembered by Davies on Instagram as “an old soldier”.

He said the actor had “loved being in Doctor Who”, adding: “He said, ‘Children are calling me grandad in the street!’"

Alongside a picture of the veteran actor with his face poking through the hole of a fake brick wall, Davies wrote: “Bernard Cribbins (1928-2022) I love this man. I love him. That’s him as Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream."

John Simm, who played the villainous renegade Time Lord, The Master, in Doctor Who, also paid tribute, calling Cribbins "an actual legend"."What a man. What an actor." he wrote.

Figures from Cribbins’ time as a children’s TV presenter also shared their memories of him.

Dame Floella Benjamin, who appeared alongside Cribbins on children's television, tweeted about how much she "adored" working with him in the 1980s.

“He was a creative genius, great storyteller and knew just how to communicate with an audience. He has left a lasting legacy.”

"It was so special to work with Bernard Cribbins," wrote actress Helen Lederer, as she described him as the "king of props and stories to make hair curl".

British TV channel Gold, which broadcasts repeats of vintage British TV sitcoms, tweeted alongside a picture of Cribbins playing Mr Hutchinson in Fawlty Towers.

“We’ll be having a cheese salad for lunch, in honour of his memorable appearance in Fawlty Towers," the post read.

There were also tributes from the world of music, with artists such as Boy George and the 1990s band Right Said Fred, who named themselves after his hit novelty song, sharing their memories online.

Early work and rise to fame

Born in Oldham, Cribbins was revered for his versatility and became a favourite with young audiences all over the country as the narrator of The Wombles, as well as for more than 100 appearances on the children’s favourite, Jackanory.

After appearing on stage for many years, Cribbins made his film debut in 1957’s Davy, before going on to work alongside some of British cinema’s biggest names in films such as the 1967 version of Casino Royale and Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy.

Off-screen, he enjoyed a successful musical career and had a number of hit records including 1962 comedy songs, Hole In The Ground and Right Said Fred, both of which reached the UK singles chart top 10.

Bernard Cribbins with actresses, Sally Thomsett (left) and Jenny Agutter, filming The Railway Children on location at Oakworth in 1970. Credit: PA

Arguably one of the roles he is most famous for was as station porter Albert Perks in The Railway Children, released in 1970.

The film adaptation of E Nesbit’s book chronicles the adventures of three children forced to move from London to Yorkshire after their father is imprisoned for being falsely accused of selling state secrets.

Cribbins in his later career

In 2011 he received an OBE for services to drama over his long career.

Speaking at the investiture ceremony, he said providing the voices of characters such as Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory and Orinoco was simple because of how The Wombles was written.

Bernard Cribbins worked into his 90s. Credit: PA

“The structure of the writing was such that you knew exactly where everybody was socially in that household,” he said.

He went on to regularly appear in the Doctor Who TV series as Wilfred Mott, the grandfather of the Doctor’s companion Donna Noble, played by Catherine Tate.

At the age of nearly 90, he published an autobiography in 2018 reflecting on his decades in show business.

Its title was 'Bernard Who? 75 Years Of Doing Absolutely Everything' and had one piece of simple advice for readers: "Do your best and be grateful for every single job".