Saint Bernard

Where to begin? 

Jackanory, The Wombles, Carry on Spying, Hole in the Ground, The Railway Children, Two Way Stretch, Doctor Who, Frenzy, Fawlty Towers, and many, many more.

The remarkable career of actor/singer and narrator Bernard Cribbins has been celebrated in some detail, since the announcement of his death in late July 2022 aged 93.

He was born Bernard Joseph Cribbins in December 1928, in Oldham Lancashire, the son of mum Ethel and ‘jack of all trades’ dad, John.


‘Tried to shift it, couldn’t even lift it…’


Times were tough and he grew up poverty stricken, before leaving school at 13 to work as assistant stage manager at his local theatre on 15 shillings a week.

‘I always say we used to learn how to throw half-bricks at our school. You know, running about and being silly. Fighting. School was all right, but I was quite happy to go to work, I must say.’

His dad had ‘dabbled’ in the acting game and his son soon followed suit, learning the ropes at the Oldham Repertory Theatre. However, his national service call up interrupted his apprenticeship there, and that found Bernard volunteering to serve with the parachute regiment –  ‘for the extra two shillings and sixpence a day’ – in Aldershot,  Palestine and West Germany.


‘Right, said Fred, give a shout for Charlie…’


He resumed his acting career once back on civvy street and made his West End stage debut in 1956 in Shakespeare’s ‘A Comedy of Errors’ and was then spotted by A&R man George Martin (yes that one) in a West End revue who signed Bernard for his Parlophone record label, to make comedy/novelty singles, which pre Beatles, the label was mainly known for. The subsequent recordings included Right said Fred and Hole in the Ground, both of which became top ten hits. Later albums by Bernard included ‘A Combination of Cribbins’ in 1963 and The Best of’ in 1970 (both highly recommended – Music Ed.)

Bernard – ‘That was great fun, that. Noël Coward chose Hole in the Ground as his favourite on Desert Island Discs. ‘Which one would you take if you could only have one?’ ‘I would take Hole in the Ground,’ he says in a perfectly starched Coward voice. ‘Why is that?’ ‘I could walk up and down the beach translating it into French. I never met the gentleman, but I was in a traffic jam in Parliament Square once, and a limo pulled up alongside and he (Noel) was sitting in the back seat, and I wanted to get out and say it’s me, it’s ‘Hole in the Ground!’


‘And the things wot held the candles…’


His early film career included ‘Tommy the Toreador’ starring Tommy Steele in 1959, and ‘Two Way Stretch’ in 1960 and ‘The Wrong Arm of the Law’ in 1963, both alongside Peter Sellers. He did two of the early  Carry On series, appearing as midshipman Albert Poopdecker  in ‘Carry on Jack’ in 1963 , and alongside Barbara Windsor in ‘Carry on Spying’ in 1964. 1966 saw him in the Doctor Who related  ‘Daleks Invasion Earth’, ‘Casino Royale’ in 1967, ‘Perks the Porter’ in the The Railway Children’ 1970 and as pub landlord Felix Forsythe in ‘Frenzy,’ directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1972.

If anything, his voice was as well-known as his face and he was a regular storyteller on the series Jackanory (ask your mum) appearing 114 times on the show from 1966 to 1991 .

Bernard – ‘It was absolutely brilliant. It introduced young children to classics like Alice in Wonderland. There’s far too much CGI and fast editing with children’s TV now. All the bells and fireworks are distracting. There’s a massive amount to be said for sitting down and saying – ‘Come here, come here, let me talk to you, did you know…’ And you’re immediately going what, what? One story still makes me shiver. I called a cab; it was a young guy. He is looking in the mirror then says, Jackanory? That made me want to learn to read. I have never forgotten that sentence. It was wonderful.’

 He was the voice of ‘Tufty’ the road safety squirrel from the 1960s and the 70s saw him ‘voice’ the TV series ‘The Wombles from 1973 to 1975. He was also ‘Buzby’; in a series of adverts for BT – British Telecom, and then narrated two Paddington Bear albums.


‘So Fred said, ‘Let’s have another cuppa tea…’


TV highlights for him over the years, included The Avengers, The Plank, Worzel Gummidge, The Good Old Days, Coronation Street, Last of the Summer Wine,  Doctor Who alongside David Tennant and Catherine Tate and for CBeebies, ‘Old Jack’s Boat.’

In the theatre, shows included the Ray Cooney farces ‘Not now Darling’ ‘There goes the Bride’ and ‘Run for your Wife,’ and he took over from Bob Hoskins as Nathan Detroit in ‘Guys and Dolls’ at the National Theatre from 1982.


‘Had bad twinges taking off the hinges…’


Bernard was awarded the OBE in 2011 for services to drama and a ‘Children’s Special Award’ from BAFTA in 2009. He explained his connection to young audiences by saying that his job was to look straight down the lens and imagine one child sitting there, transfixed.


‘With a rope or two we could drop the blighter through…’


He was married to Gill, who he met when she was his stage assistant in Oldham from 1955, to her death in late 2021.


‘You’ll never get nowhere if you’re too hasty…’


Bernard Cribbins died aged 93 on 27h July 2022.

‘It’s part of the contract. You’re born, you get to there, and you stop. I don’t think about it.’


The Mumper of SE5



THE SPEAKEASY Volume Two by Mark Baxter (The Mumper)

Illustrations by Lewis Wharton

Foreword by Rhoda Dakar

Available to ORDER here


Spring / Summer 2022 Collection Available Now



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