Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Derbyshire's Arthur Lowe, aka Captain Mainwaring
Arthur Lowe
Arthur Lowe played Captain Mainwaring throughout Dad's Army's nine-year run

Hayfield in Derbyshire was the birthplace of the actor who portrayed Captain George Mainwaring in one of Britain's most enduring comedy series.

Arthur Lowe played the lovable character throughout the 80 episodes of Dad's Army during its nine-year run.

The popular actor also had roles in Coronation Street and BBC radio's Mrs Dale's Diary and was the voice of the Mr Men cartoons.

But his original choice of career was far removed from the stage.

Arthur Lowe was born in September 1915 in picturesque Hayfield in the High Peak at the foot of Kinder Scout. He went to school in Manchester.

He had hoped to join the Merchant Navy but his poor eyesight prevented him from signing up. However, he was accepted into the army at the start of World War II.

It was during his service in the Middle East that his acting career was spawned when he joined several shows for the troops - he had already had a taste of theatrical life at home back-stage at Manchester's Palace of Varieties - and after being demobbed Lowe soon secured a repertory role at the Hulme Hippodrome, also in Manchester.

The cast of Dad's Army
The hapless platoon was a familiar site on Britain's TV screens

He had a series of minor parts in film, TV and radio but his big break came in 1960 when he was cast as draper Leonard Swindley in Coronation Street. He held this part for seven year and went on to star in two spin-offs featuring the popular character - Pardon the Expression and Turn Out the Lights.

There was a popular misconception that Lowe had graduated from acting school RADA. However, this unfortunate misunderstanding is said to have originated from the fact that, during his army days, he had been attached to the REME which had been working on a new invention that would change the face of warfare - Radar!

The role which was to immortalise him as the pompous, ruddy-faced captain came along in 1968 in the series Dad's Army. It is said that writer Jimmy Perry wanted Lowe in the role of Mainwaring from the start - but his ongoing work with ITV almost dissuaded BBC bosses from taking him on.

However, on 15 April 1968 the first episode of the comedy was filmed and George Mainwaring was introduced to the entertainment world. A further 79 episodes followed telling the tales of the hapless platoon of the Home Guard and their attempts to defend Walmington-on-Sea. Dad's Army was disbanded in 1977.

Arthur Lowe
Lowe also took on other TV roles - here as Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield (1974)

After that, Arthur Lowe concentrated mainly on roles in the theatre and selected them based on whether his actress wife, Joan, could also find a role.

Although he had earlier been denied a career in the navy, Lowe was still very much the captain of his own ship as he was the proud owner of a 19th-century steam yacht Amazon, which he bought in 1968 and used as a floating base when appearing at coastal theatres.

It was while he was appearing with his wife at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham in April 1982 that he suffered a stroke from which he died. He was 66.

He had given a live TV interview on the BBC's Pebble Mill at One just a few hours earlier.

Joan spent the last years of her life in Hayfield - in the house where Arthur had spent many of his childhood years. Joan Lowe died in 1989.

On Sunday, 9 May 1976 Hayfield was invaded by the cast of Dads Army - wearing their cricket whites. They waged battle against the Hayfield eleven to raise money to buy the cricket field. They lost the match but raised a significant proportion of the funds needed for the purchase.

Robert Lindsay's Stanton
17 Sep 09 |  History
Snooker legend's Derbyshire roots
03 Dec 09 |  History
Lord Hattersley's Derbyshire life
01 Dec 09 |  TV & Radio


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific