theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…
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 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, Mum, Hi-de-Hi!, A Fine Romance, As Time Goes By to Bottom, Birds of a Feather, The Green Green Grass and Time Gentlemen Please with Al Murray, Roy 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’.
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
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