International fan favorite actor Bernard Cribbins, OBE, has died at the age of 93. Modern audiences knew him best as Wilfred Mott, Companion to the 10th Doctor, and grandfather of Companion Donna Noble. Children of the day knew him from his role on the children’s show Jackorany. His native England knew him as the comedian, actor, and singer of generations.
Bernard Cribbins was born December 29, 1928 in Oldham Lancashire, England. He married Gillian McBarnet in 1955. They were together for 66 years, until her death in 2021. He died himself July 27, 2022, of natural causes.
Cribbins first rose to national fame with three novelty songs that made the Top 30. “The Hole in the Ground,” which would have made a good Monty Python skit, “Right, Said Fred” (below), and “Caypso Gossip.” “Right, Said Fred” and “The Hole in the Ground” both made the Top Ten in the British charts.
At the age of 13, Cribbins left school and then a job as an assistant stage manager at a local theatre club, where he also took some small acting roles. Afterwards he served an apprenticeship at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre in Oldham, Greater Manchester. He was too young to serve in WWII, but in 1947 he did his duty to king and country in the Paras (the noted Parachute Regiment of the British Army), first in Aldershot, Hampshire, UK, and then in what at the time was Mandatory Palestine.
In 1956 he appeared in London’s East End, playing both Dromios in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. He co-starred in the plays Run for Your Wife, Not Now, Darling, and There Goes the Bride. Decades later, Cribbins would have a cameo in the 2012 film version of Run for Your Wife. Cribbins starred in the revue And Another Thing. He recorded one song from the revue, “Folksong,” along it did not do as well in the charts as his comic novelty songs.
From the 1950s on, Bernard Cribbins divided his time between stage work and appearing in films, primarily comedies. He was in three of the 31 Carry On films.
Bernard Cribbins was the only actor to play two different Companions on Dr. Who. In 1966, he played Special Constable Tom Campbell to Peter Cushing’s Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. Constable Campbell basically replaced Companion Ian Chesterton from the TV series. Mistaking the Tardis for an actual police callbox, he enters the Tardis to call for backup to catch some burglars. Instead, the Doctor takes him to 2150. After fighting the Daleks, the Tardis and its crew return to the modern day a few minutes before they left, permitting Campbell to capture the burglars he was chasing without backup.
In 2007, Cribbins played Wilfred Mott, an eccentric veteran and amateur astronomer, in the annual Dr Who Christmas special, “Voyage of the Damned.” The following year he became a series semi-regular, as Donna Noble’s grandfather. He became a Companion himself to David Tennant’s Doctor in “The End of Time.”
In The Mouse on the Moon, Cribbins played Vincent Mountjoy, the first astronaut from the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
Bernard Cribbins was the most frequent celebrity reader on the popular British children’s show Jackanory. From 1965 to 1991, he appeared in 114 episodes. He starred as Jack in Old Jack’s Boat from 2013 to 2015. Old Jack’s Boat featured his “fellow Doctor Who alumnus Freema Agyeman (Companion Dr. Martha Jones) as Shelly Periwinkle.” Cribbins narrated The Wombles from 1973 to 1975. He also hosted the game shows Star Turn and Star Turn Challenge in the 1970s.
Honours and Awards
Glen Chapman called Bernard Cribbins “a national treasure.” It’s hard to disagree with him. In 2011, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to drama. Cribbins was honoured for his work in children’s television with a Special Award at the British Academy Children’s Awards in 2009. in 2014, Cribbins was granted the J, M. Barrie Award for his “lasting contribution to children’s arts. BBC America named Cribbins “British Icon of the Week” on 23 December 2020.
A life well lived. What a wonderful man. Rest in peace, old friend.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.