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Friday, October 8, 1999 Published at 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK


Deryck Guyler: British comedy stalwart

Sykes series: Hattie Jacques with Derek Guyler and Eric Sykes

Comic actor Deryck Guyler, who has died aged 85, had a career which spanned radio, TV and films, but is best remembered for his television creations of pompous characters.

On screen he played school caretaker Mr Potter in Please Sir! and several police officers, including PC "Corky" Turnball in Sykes.

However, radio was the mainstay of his long and successful career.

Dating back to 1935, he made more than 6,000 broadcasts in some of radio's most famous shows such as ITMA, Just Fancy and The Men from the Ministry.

[ image: Just Fancy: Guyler was in the radio series for nine years]
Just Fancy: Guyler was in the radio series for nine years
He is even credited with making radio history by using a Liverpool accent for the first time on the air, but it was the roles of Potter and PC "Corky" that turned Guyler into a national institution.

Born in Wallasey on Merseyside in 1914, he was the son of a local jeweller.

He joined the family business "to show willing" and then tried his hand at farming and even studied for a year at a Church of England theological college.

Even though he was deeply religious, he decided to follow a career on stage instead.

After elocution lessons, he joined the Liverpool Rep in 1935 and went on to play numerous parts, some Shakespearean. His acting colleagues in his final season included Michael Redgrave, Rex Harrison, Robert Donat and Diana Wynyard.

Guyler was called up early in the Second World War and joined the RAF police, but was invalided out in 1942.

He then joined the BBC Repertory Company, where his many straight roles included Macduff to Sir John Gielgud's Macbeth and Brutus in Julius Caesar.

Classic radio comedy

He got his big comedy break came in 1946 when Tommy Handley picked him to join the celebrated radio show ITMA (It's That Man Again).

And it was as the gormless Liverpool lad Frisby Dyke that he made radio history by using a Liverpool accent for the first time on the air.

"It was Tommy's idea - it is, after all, a very comic accent," he once explained.

[ image: Guyler's co-stars in A Hard Day's Night]
Guyler's co-stars in A Hard Day's Night
ITMA opened the door for Guyler's career in light entertainment and set the pattern for him as one of the country's best supporting actors - even though his performances regularly upstaged the so-called stars.

"It's the old thing, it's nicer to sit back and play first violin and let the conductor carry the can," he said.

After ITMA he worked with many of Britain's most famous comedians, including Eric Sykes, Harry Worth, Eric Barker and Richard Murdoch.

His long stints on radio including nine years of Just Fancy with Barker, 11 years in The Men from the Ministry with Murdoch and six years as Inspector Scott of the series Inspector Scott Investigates.

He gained nationwide recognition as officious, out-of-touch school caretaker Norman Potter in Please Sir! - the top ITV sitcom, which ran for 57 episodes from 1968-72

[ image: Guyler's best known role as
Guyler's best known role as "Corky" in Sykes
Please Sir! was followed by another role in a hit TV series - this time the Eric Sykes BBC vehicle Sykes, which ran from 1972-9.

He played the 'PC Plod' character, PC Wilfred "Corky" Turnball, whose wife Elsie was mentioned and never seen.

He also starred in several classic British films, including the 1962 Stanley Baxter comedy The Fast Lady, A Hard Day's Night opposite the Beatles in 1964 and Carry on Doctor in 1968 and the 1976 Disney movie One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing.

In his later years he spent more of his time on his varied hobbies from listening to jazz records and self-taught washboard-playing to collecting thousands of model soldiers.

He emigrated to Brisbane, Australia, with his wife Paddy, seven years ago.

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