Wombles and Railway Children star Bernard Cribbins dies aged 93

28 July 2022, 09:01 | Updated: 28 July 2022, 13:34

Bernard Cribbins has died at the age of 93
Bernard Cribbins has died at the age of 93. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

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

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Cribbins' agent, Gavin Barker Associates, said he had made an unquestionable contribution to British entertainment and described him as "unique" and "typifying the best of his generation".

"Beloved actor Bernard Cribbins OBE has passed away at the age of 93," read the statement.

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

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Cribbins was known for his role in The Railway Children
Cribbins was known for his role in The Railway Children. Picture: Alamy

"He worked well into his 90's, 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."

Bernard Cribbins was one of the most versatile and popular entertainers of his generation
Bernard Cribbins was one of the most versatile and popular entertainers of his generation. Picture: Getty

Tributes have poured in for Cribbins.

In a lengthy Instagram post, Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies said "a legend has left the world" and that he was "so lucky to have known him".

The Charlatans lead singer Tim Burgess also paid tribute, writing on Twitter: "Farewell Bernard Cribbins. Safe travels."

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 Two-Way Stretch, She, Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 AD, the 1967 version of Casino Royale and Frenzy.

He also starred in several Carry On movies and had roles in TV favourites Coronation Street and the revamped Doctor Who.

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Off-screen Cribbins 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.

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.

The film also starred a young Jenny Agutter and famously featured the tear-jerking moment at the film's climax when Agutter's character cries "daddy, my daddy" as they are reunited on a train platform. Cribbins played the station porter Albert Perks.

Dame Floella Benjamin, a doyen of children&squot;s TV, described him as a "treasure for our nation&squot;s children"
Dame Floella Benjamin, a doyen of children's TV, described him as a "treasure for our nation's children". Picture: Getty

In 2011 he received an OBE for services to drama for 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.

"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.

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Voyage Of The Damned, which was broadcast on Christmas Day in 2007, saw 13.31 million people tune in to watch the then-Doctor, David Tennant, battle to save the crew of a luxury space liner called the Titanic.

Cribbins featured in the episode alongside special guests including Kylie Minogue, Geoffrey Palmer, Clive Swift and Russell Tovey.

He also had the lead role in CBeebies show Old Jack's Boat and in the 1960s narrated the Tufty Fluffytale series of public information films about road safety.

More recently, reports said Cribbins had been spotted filming alongside Tate and Tennant for Doctor Who's 60th anniversary celebrations.