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Colbourne's way

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Maurice Colbourne's sudden death left his Howards' Way co-star Jan Harvey 'devastated' Here she joins a tribute to the quiet star who, in one of his last interviews, revealed his surprise at becoming a success

TALL, LEAN and fit with a healthy lifestyle, a happy home life and a placid personality, quietly-spoken Maurice Colbourne seemed the least likely candidate for a fatal heart attack at the early age of 49.

So colleagues on Howards' Way were particularly shattered by his tragic death on 4 August, while he was relaxing at his holiday cottage in France during a summer-holiday break from filming.

'We are absolutely devastated,' says a shocked Jan Harvey, his costar from the very start. In the popular up-market soap-opera, in which he played boat-builder Tom Howard, she stars as his ex-wife Jan. 'Because the regulars in the cast have all spent so much time working together in the past five years it was very much like a death in the family.'

Jan Harvey rejects any suggestion that the pressure of working on a hectic filming schedule might have contributed to the massive coronary. 'Howards' Way is no more punishing than any normal production - probably less so, because there are so many regulars that the workload is more evenly spread.'

In Malta, where Colbourne was filming location scenes earlier this year for what will be the fifth series, he certainly did not give the impression of being under any special stress. Rather, he was in a relaxed mood, pleased with the way the new series was developing.

'There is a tremendous feeling,' he told me, 'that there are good storylines and interesting new characters with Kate O'Mara and Andrew Bicknell joining the cast.'

Colbourne, a family man with daughters aged 23 and 8, one from each of his two marriages (he had been married to Malaysian nurse, Jeany, for the past ten years), put a lot of himself into Tom Howard one of the steadier, more reliable characters in the series.

But, although he slipped comfortably into the role of an executive-class southerner, his own background was northern working-class.

Born and raised in Sheffield, where his father worked for the electricity board, he left school at 15 and had jobs as a council labourer, fairground worker and waiter - before being inspired to try his hand at acting after a chance meeting with fellow northerner Tom Courtenay.

Having begun in theatre he progressed through TV series such as The Onedin Line, Doctor Who and Gangsters - in which he usually played villains until Howards' Way turned him into a major star. 'I never dreamed when it started that it would turn out to be so successful,' he recalled.

However he did admit: 'The show does take over your life. It's a nine-month commitment each year and that just about leaves time for a holiday and a panic between each series.' He wasn't in the least snobbish about being labelled a soap star, and never worried about being typecast although, as he pointed out: 'In the old days you would be wary of doing a series for more than three years because of that risk.'

But he was happy to stay with Howards' Way as long as it ran. 'No actor ever assumes that anything is going to last so I never think beyond the current series.'

Colbourne had filmed nine out of the 13 episodes in the new series before he died. His character, Tom Howard, will be quietly written out and the part will not be re-cast.

Gerard Glaister, producer and series creator, says: 'The way his storyline had already been developed it is possible to write him out without too much difficulty.' But he adds, 'We have every intention of going ahead with a sixth series.'

Paying tribute to Maurice Colbourne, he said sadly: 'He was quiet, charming and tolerant - a relaxed, easy-going man who kept fit and looked after himself. In a way, of course, that's what made it even more shocking. The whole cast is very upset.'

On Sunday, there's a second chance to see the final episode of the last series of Howard's Way. The new series begins next week


Much missed: Maurice Colbourne in Malta and (inset) with co-star Jan Harvey

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  • APA 6th ed.: Cable, Michael (1989-08-26). Colbourne's way. Radio Times p. 5.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Cable, Michael. "Colbourne's way." Radio Times [add city] 1989-08-26, 5. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Cable, Michael. "Colbourne's way." Radio Times, edition, sec., 1989-08-26
  • Turabian: Cable, Michael. "Colbourne's way." Radio Times, 1989-08-26, section, 5 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Colbourne's way | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Colbourne%27s_way | work=Radio Times | pages=5 | date=1989-08-26 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=16 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Colbourne's way | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Colbourne%27s_way | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=16 April 2024}}</ref>