May 13, 2023 6.00 pm This story is over 8 months old

The lives and legacies of six Lincolnshire stars no longer with us

From Nana in Royle Family to an Emmerdale favourite

Lincolnshire has produced a host of stars in the world of film and television, including some who are sadly no longer with us.

We have looked back at a selection of careers of some of these beloved Lincolnshire stars.

Some names are better known than others, but they have all brought joy to people with their presence on our screens.

Liz Smith

On television Liz Smith’s best-known roles included Letitia Cropley in The Vicar of Dibley and ‘Nana’ in The Royal Family. | Photo: IMDB/2007 BAFTA

Liz Smith, born as Betty Gleadle in the Crosby area of Scunthorpe, made a name for herself in the entertainment industry with a long list of film and television credits.

Despite passing away at the age of 95 on Christmas Eve in 2016, she continues to be fondly remembered by many. Her work in the industry was also recognised when she was awarded an MBE in 2009.

In 1971, aged 49, she had a career breakthrough when she appeared in Mike Leigh’s film Bleak Moments. She went on to appear in many more films, including winning a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the 1984 movie A Private Function.

She also appeared in other films including as Grandma Georgina in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as being the voice of Mrs Mulch in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

On television her best-known roles included Letitia Cropley in The Vicar of Dibley and ‘Nana’ in The Royal Family.

Neil McCarthy

Actor Neil McCarthy appeared in the classic films Zulu and Clash of the Titans. | Photo: IMDB

Lincoln-born Neil McCarthy might not be a name you instantly recognise, but he has certainly appeared in some memorable roles.

He played roles including Welsh soldier Private Thomas in the 1964 film Zulu, and as Sergeant Jock McPherson in Where Eagles Dare.

Neil, who sadly died of motor neurone disease in 1985 at the age of 52, also appeared in the iconic film Clash of the Titans as the villain Calibos.

His television credits include the character of Enoch Tolly in Emmerdale and appearances in shows such as Doctor Who and Z-Cars.

Neil, who also trained as a Latin and French teacher, was also known for his physical appearance caused by acromegaly, which is described as an abnormal growth of the hands, feet and face. He was also said to be a talented linguist and pianist.

Nicholas Parsons

Grantham-born Christopher Nicholas Parsons was an actor, radio and television presenter. | Photo: IMDB

Grantham-born Christopher Nicholas Parsons was an actor, radio and television presenter.

Parsons also appeared in various theatre, film and television roles before he began presenting BBC Radio 4 comedy panel game Just a Minute in 1967. He appeared on every show for 51 years, either as chairman or panellist, until he missed two in 2018 through illness.

He became known to TV audiences in the 1950s and 1960s as the ‘straight man’ to comedian Arthur Haynes for a decade.

His list of TV appearances also includes being a narrator on the children’s television series The Wotwots for 40 episodes, as well as guest starring in Dr Who and Good Omens.

Parsons, who sadly died at the age of 96 on January 28, 2020, also featured as a guest presenter on the BBC quiz show Have I got News for You.

Peter Martin

Peter Martin starred as Joe Carroll in the Royle Family and is pictured alongside his co-star Doreen Keogh, who played his on-screen wife Mary Carroll. | Photo: BBC One

Gainsborough-born actor Peter Martin, who was best known for his roles in The Royle Family and Emmerdale, sadly died earlier this year on April 19 at the age of 81.

He was renowned for his role as neighbour Joe Carroll in The Royle Family and played the character from 1998 until 2012.

Among the other characters he played on our screens was Len Reynolds in the ITV soap Emmerdale. He also appeared in five different roles in Coronation Street.

Peter’s other parts included the movie Brassed Off, alongside Ewan McGregor and Pete Postlethwaite.

He also featured in shows including Chucklevision, Last of the Summer Wine, and All Creatures Great and Small, as well as the role of Captain Mainwaring in the stage production of Dad’s Army.

Jo Kendall

Jo Kendall played the role of Matron in the 1979 film Scum. | Photo: IMDB

Jo Kendall was born in Cleethorpes in 1940 and went on to feature in over 40 episodes of Emmerdale (then Emmerdale Farm).

She played the role of Peggy Skilbeck in the popular ITV soap and also spoke the programme’s first ever line of dialogue in the inaugural episode in 1972.

Jo also appeared in a host of other television shows during her career including Grange Hill, The Bill, and The Pickwick Papers.

She was also known for appearing in various films such as Howards End and Scum, as well as for her work on the BBC radio comedy show I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again.

She sadly died at Denville Hall – a retirement home for actors in London, on January 29, 2022.

Sheila Gish

Lincoln-born Sheila Gish played the role of Rachel Ellenstein in the ‘Highlander’ films in 1986 (pictured) and 2000. | Photo: IMDB

Sheila Gish was born in Lincoln in 1942 and among her best known appearances were as Rachel Ellenstein in the two ‘Highlander’ films in 1986 and 2000.

The daughter of an army officer also starred in an array of other films, including as Mrs Norris in Mansfield Park.

Sheila was also known for her stage work, including playing the part of Joanne in Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company. That performance saw her receive the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Role in a Musical.

On television, Sheila starred in shows including BBC’s The First Churchills and Anna Karenina, and ITV sitcom Brighton Belles (1993-94)

Sheila lost her right eye to skin cancer in 2003, but still continued to work with an eye patch. Sadly, she died of cancer at the age of 62 on March 9, 2005.


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