Thursday, August 27, 1998 Published at 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
The Archers' Tom Forrest dies
Bob Arnold as Tom Forrest
Veteran actor Bob Arnold, best known as Tom Forrest in BBC Radio 4's The Archers, has died aged 87.
Mr Arnold died peacefully from liver failure at his daughter's home in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
The cast of The Archers is said to be "devastated" by the news.
A BBC spokesman said: "They are in mourning. Bob played Uncle Tom in the series, but was also an uncle to the cast in real life.
"He was exceptionally popular."
Mr Arnold recorded his final episode in the Archers last Christmas when he made a special guest appearance.
'He delighted listeners'
Editor of the Archers, Vanessa Whitburn, paid tribute to his contribution to a series that now boasts more than four million listeners.
"For nearly half a century Bob Arnold delighted millions of Archers fans with his portrayal of Tom Forrest," she said.
"Bob was an original - a true countryman who turned out also to be an extremely talented actor."
Mr Arnold, the son of an Oxfordshire publican, began his career in radio by recording LPs of traditional Cotswold songs and was often heard singing in the Archers. In fact, it was his Cotswold twang that nearly lost him his role as Tom Forrest.
The soap's founder, Godfrey Baseley, originally rejected him for the part, because his accent was "too recognisable".
Mr Arnold also narrated a short programme called Nature Notes that went out immediately before The Archers. It ran for 30 years and was only dropped in the 1980s.
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