Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

RIP Roy Heather [1935-2014] aka Sid the cafe owner in #OFAH

Please forgive me for any errors, grammatical or otherwise.  I am writing this tribute through tears for I have lost my ex-husband and a good friend. Roy died on 3rd September, 2014, in Purbrook, Hampshire.

Roy 1blog

Roy Heather, who was born on 20 May, 1935, in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, was best known and loved for his appearances as Sid the café owner in John Sullivan’s classic sitcom, Only Fools and Horses (#OFAH) with David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

Roy joined the RAF for his National Service before doing a series of casual jobs including, I remember him telling me long before he was cast as Sid, a brief stint as a market trader selling cosmetics and perfume. Since Roy had a tendency to embellish the truth for the sake of a good story, this may or may not be true!

It was not until his mid-forties that Roy became a professional actor and then there was no stopping him. An enthusiastic amateur, Roy was urged to go pro by his friend, the director David Tudor, who later cast him in a host of repertory productions with parts including Reg in The Norman Conquests, Frank in Winter Journey, and Percy opposite Elizabeth Lane’s Cyrenne in Rattle of a Simple Man: “We used to call ourselves a pair of old of slippers because we were so comfortable working together,” says Elizabeth.  He also played opposite Ingrid Pitt in the world première of Aurelia.

One of the highlights of his stage career was the part of Pistol in his close friend Peter Mottley’s play After Agincourt which has Pistol recounting the horrors of battle seven years on. In a powerful performance, Roy made audiences laugh and cry as he brought out the humour and pathos of the bloody experience of war. Originally performed at The Southsea Arts Festival in 1986, After Agincourt was also recorded for BBC Radio 4 with the late Bob Hoskins as Pistol

Other theatre work included tours of Michael Pertwee’s Sink or Swim with Windsor Davies and Melvyn Hayes, and Philip King’s farce, See How They Run, with Joanna Van Gysegham. He played Dr Prentice in Orton’s What the Butler Saw at the Lyceum Theatre in Crewe, and Antonio in Twelfth Night at Manchester Royal Exchange, as well as appearing in Royal Hunt of the Sun with Denis Quilley, directed by Tim Pigott-Smith.

A season with the Royal Shakespeare Company found him working with Robert Stephens in Twelfth Night, The Virtuoso and Julius Caesar at Stratford-upon-Avon and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He also appeared at Oldham Coliseum in Renny Krupinski’s Mobil Prize-winning play Bare.

The fact that Roy came late to the business gave him a distinct advantage. While it may be true that ‘there are no small parts, only small actors’, actors his age had either ‘made it’ and would not accept smaller parts or had given up. Casting directors found him a valuable asset when looking to flesh out the taxi drivers, café owners, workmen and caretakers. His television credits include many of the most familiar sit-coms and drama series of the last two decades of the 20th century and the first decade of this.

Courtesy of roles in sitcoms such as It Ain’t Half Hot, MumHi-de-Hi!,  A Fine RomanceAs Time Goes By to Bottom, Birds of a Feather, The Green Green Grass and Time Gentlemen Please with Al MurrayRoy became a very familiar face on British television. His work in drama series was no less prolific, ranging from Edge of Darkness with Bob Peck and Cadfael with Derek Jacobi to The Bill and Casualty.

Roy was a regular attendee at the Only Fools and Horses conventions that take place every year.  Interviewed at the 1999 convention, he was the last to arrive and was ‘the only one who didn’t look entirely like his character. For a start, he looked too healthy! Sid always looks like he’s just got up and forgot to have a shave’.

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When asked at the interview which was his favourite episode to work on, he told the audience it was The Jolly Boys Outing. “Filming was three weeks of utter mayhem,” he said. “It was a real jolly boys outing.” Somebody asked if he ever did any of the cooking for the show. “No is the quick answer, I remember during A Royal Flush four girls were continually cooking. I came out smelling of bacon and eggs.” [OFAH.net]

I have to confess that the question made me laugh out loud when I read it. Roy was not good in a kitchen. He could mess up a bowl of cornflakes, to quote the man himself. On one occasion, when I’d had to go early to a temp job, he did bacon and eggs for some friends who had stayed overnight. It was so greasy that the friends had to discreetly get rid of it without him knowing. I don’t think we ever told him!

While he was fond of applying the phrase ‘you little rascal’, he was the biggest rascal of all and we loved him for it even if he had just done or said something unspeakable. “I’m decorative, not functional,” he used to say.

But his biggest gift was his talent to make us roar with laughter, whether on screen or off. I will never stop missing him.

Roy is survived by his first wife, Doreen, by whom he had three sons, Nicholas, Christopher and Andrew, his second wife — namely me (1982-1987) — and his third wife, Sara, to whom he had been married since 1993.

See you on the Green, you little rascal!

© Sarah Vernon

Related

19 comments on “RIP Roy Heather [1935-2014] aka Sid the cafe owner in #OFAH

  1. ksbeth
    09/05/2014

    i’m sorry for your loss, he sounds like quite an interesting character –

  2. FRANCIS
    09/05/2014

    WHAT A PLEASURE IT’S BEEN TO KNOW YOU, AND ALWAYS SUCH FUN. A GREAT FEELING AND A JOY TO HAVE HAD A FRIEND LIKE YOU, ROY.
    THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART
    FRANCIS XXXX

  3. maedez
    09/05/2014

    What an intersting man. My condolences.

  4. maedez
    09/05/2014

    Also, that should be “interesting”…I just had a wee nip of Scotch. Let’s blame it on that.

  5. muttering heart
    09/06/2014

    sorry for your loss. sounds like he was a happy fellow!

  6. Sara Heather
    09/06/2014

    To wife number two, from wife number three. – Thank you for posting such a heartfelt tribute to darling Roy. I’m so glad you chose to use that particular photograph, it’s always been my favourite. He was indeed a rascal, but however exasperating his behaviour, he knew he could turn on that wicked grin, make you laugh, and you’d forgive him. He was a loveable character and a sweet, loving, husband.

    Speak to you soon Sarah

  7. I am very sorry for your loss, Sarah. This was a beautifully-written tribute.

  8. Lois Bryan
    09/06/2014

    Ahh sweetie, he sounds like an amazing, amazing man … I loved the “I’m decorative, not functional” … that right there says so much about what a great, fun character he must have been. I’m awfully sorry for this hole in your life and obviously in the lives of so many. Another bright star dimmed in the universe. Bless you … a beautifully written tribute!! I’m sure Roy is smiling with pride!

  9. mandy
    09/06/2014

    Such a beautiful tribute, Sarah. ❤

  10. olganm
    09/07/2014

    Sorry to hear Sara. At least I have discovered your theatre blog that I had managed to miss all this time.

  11. elainecanham
    09/07/2014

    Sorry to hear of your loss, Sarah; that was a lovely tribute.

  12. First Night Design
    09/08/2014

    Bless you all for such wonderfully supportive comments. Our marriage may have been in the 80s and it may not have lasted very long but we stayed friends till the end and he was an enormous part of my life. Love doesn’t dissipate just because you divorce. Not in my life, anyway!

  13. Shelley
    09/11/2014

    To Sarah – this was a wonderful tribute. I’m very sorry for your and Sara’s loss.

    My family all knew Roy (and his first wife Doreen) well. My dad (John Rees) and godfather (Bill Shrimpton) grew up with Roy in Slough and all hung around in the same group with Bill’s brothers and the Buckley brothers. Roy also worked with my mum (Irene Moore/Rees) and godmother (Sue Edwards/Shrimpton) at Hughes Brushes before he became an actor. The words ‘incorrigible rascal’ always came up when Roy’s name was mentioned, but you’re both right – everyone also described him as so likeable that when he switched on that grin, most things were forgiven!

    I also know how proud and supportive his friends were of his acting – on stage and on TV. They all saw him in many plays over the years, and Mum reminded me yesterday of a wonderful 2 hour solo performance he gave of ‘After Agincourt’ in the Pangbourne garden of our friends John and Pauline Logue. She said he was ‘bloody brilliant’ – and I remember another good friend, Johnnie Morrow, saying that evening just confirmed to everyone what a genuinely good actor he was.

    Life, sadly, moves forward so quickly… John Logue has been gone 11 years, Bill died in 2011, my Dad last year, and Mum and Sue also heard that Dickie Buckley died the day after Roy. It’s so sad – but we’d like to think all the ‘boys’ are up there somewhere having a pint together, with Roy holding court and giving them one more performance…

    Anyway – sorry to have written so much, but I saw your tribute, and Sara’s comment, and wanted to tell you both how many people are remembering Roy’s life and acting talent this week.

  14. First Night Design
    09/12/2014

    How lovely to read your comments, Shelley. So sad to see how many of them are now gone but as you say, they’re sure to be having a pint and a laugh with Roy holding court. We’ve probably met – I was at the After Agincourt performance in John and Pauline’s garden and Roy was exquisite as Pistol; such a perfect setting, too. I remember Johnnie Morrow well. Please say hello to him.

    I’m not sure if Sara ticked the ‘notify’ box but I will send her what you’ve said. I think I know Sue as well. I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since John died. I assume you know David and Sandy also. Sandy reminded me the other day how they always thought of him as a ‘loveable rogue’ – perfect description!

    Great to hear from you and thank you so much for taking the trouble to write down your thoughts.

    Best wishes,

    Sarah

  15. George Kaplan
    10/23/2014

    This lovely, heartfelt remembrance moved me to tears, Sarah. How impressive that even in the grip of a consuming grief you were able to pen something so imbued with Joy & Humour & Love. It is a foolishly facile and gauche thing to say but I am certain Mr Heather would have been glowingly touched by your expression of undimmed affection and gloriously amused by your recollection of his occasionally rascally ways. I hope you are bearing up, Ms V, Roy is forever alive within you and his other intimates and friends.

  16. First Night Design
    10/23/2014

    Bless you, Mr K.

  17. Sally Lucas
    06/11/2016

    For some strange reason, after watching an old episode of Vicar of Dibley, and thinking of past times spent in Pangbourne (I’ve now been living in Scotland for 30 years), I thought of Roy and times spent in the local pub, the Ferryman.

    I recall one day having a particularly difficult morning and decided to just ‘go down the pub’. My then husband (another ‘rascal’) was at work and I knew I would see some friendly faces. After closing time, Roy and another local came back to the house for the afternoon to continue a bit of a ‘session’. Around 5pm, Roy decided to call it a day but I panicked and said he had to stay – it would look strangely suspicious if he left before my husband returned home. You know how neighbours can gossip! He kindly protected my reputation.

    I saw Roy perform a one-man play in Southampton. He was word perfect and my admiration for him grew.

    I’m saddened by his passing but have such a warm glow in remembering his spirit, his wit and his smile.

    Thanks Roy, it was a pleasure to briefly know you.

    Sally x

  18. First Night Design
    06/12/2016

    What a lovely memory to have. He was a good soul. I miss him still. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Sally.

  19. First Night Design
    09/03/2018

    Reblogged this on Rogues & Vagabonds and commented:

    On this Day in 2014…

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