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Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 21:30 GMT


Nimmo dies after fall

Derek Nimmo: Best known for clerical roles

The veteran actor and comic Derek Nimmo has died in hospital in London, aged 68.

The BBC's Lisa Holland reports: "Nimmo was from a kinder and gentler age of comedy"
Mr Nimmo was badly injured when he fell down stairs at his home in west London last December.

He underwent surgery the following day for a blood clot in his brain.

He died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London on Wednesday.

In a career of more than 40 years, Derek Nimmo had starred in the West End in plays and musicals, toured overseas with his own theatre company, and hosted television chat shows.

[ image: Nimmo symbolised a gentler era of comedy]
Nimmo symbolised a gentler era of comedy
But he was probably best known for his clerical roles - the diffident curate in the television comedy series All Gas and Gaiters, a monk in Oh Brother!, a Roman Catholic priest in Oh Father! and an Anglican dean in Hell's Bells.

His natural monkish air almost landed him in trouble while filming at the Vatican for the BBC series Oh Brother! in 1969.

Dressed as Father Dominic, he was arrested on the steps of St Peter's Basilica by Vatican police after being seen with his arm around a mini-skirted girl by a shocked nun.

Lisa Holland looks back at his life
The actor was innocently obliging an English tourist who spotted the star and asked him to pose with his daughter for a photo.

On radio he was a regular on BBC Radio 4's Just A Minute for more than 20 years, and had been in several films, notably One of our Dinosaurs is Missing.

Actress June Whitfield said she was "devastated" by the news of Mr Nimmo's death.

She said: "He was always the first one with a friendly wave and a joke. He was also a very good actor and a very funny man."

'Frightfully pretty'

Originally from Liverpool, Nimmo went into acting purely by chance.

Smitten with the attractive girl who tried to sell him tickets for the amateur theatre production in which she was starring, he decided to sign up. Patricia went on to become his wife of 43 years.

"She was frightfully pretty so I joined the company," he once recalled.

He made his first professional stage appearance at the Hippodrome, Bolton, Lancashire in 1952 and his London debut five years later in Waltz of the Toreadors.

Varied career

Later he was in various West End plays, including The Amorous Prawn and See How They Run, in which he played his first clergyman.

As a newly-married, struggling actor he made his home in a caravan which was parked - when not on the touring circuit - just off London's Edgware Road.

From 1965 until 1971 Mr Nimmo was in the musical Charlie Girl with Anna Neagle at the Adelphi, and he toured overseas with the production.

He was one of the founders of the Theatre of Comedy, and also produced and appeared in numerous plays and countries.

Naive bumbling

The best known of his television chat shows was Just A Nimmo.

As well as his clerical roles, in which he made the most of his distinctive plummy voice, he had also been Bertie Wooster in The World of Wooster and played Jeeves on stage.

A quadruple heart bypass operation a decade ago coincided with a scaling down of his TV appearances.

In an interview last year he admitted there was little place for his brand of gentle humour on TV.

"Men Behaving Badly is at the opposite end of the scale to the rather naive bumbling characters I used to play," he said.

Bats' blood

However, Nimmo did make an appearance in one well-watched, high-profile series in recent years by popping up with a cameo role in Neighbours in 1989, as an eccentric peer.

Away from showbusiness he was an expert on wine and a keen gardener.

However, his interest in odd health tonics raised a few eyebrows - including drinking bats' and lizards' blood.

He also swore by the use of garlic and when featured on Desert Island Discs chose it as his luxury.

Crashed Rolls-Royce

The actor was a leading figure in the campaign to oppose women's membership of the exclusive Garrick Club in London. "The only excuse for joining the Garrick is to get away from women," he remarked.

He hit the headlines again two years ago when he crashed his Rolls-Royce into three cars in Buckinghamshire after the accelerator pedal got stuck and he ended up in a "charming lady's greenhouse".

"I switched off the key and bought her a hydrangea" he said.

He and Pat lived in Kensington, west London, for 30 years.

They had three children, Tim, Amanda and Piers.

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