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Kenneth Wilson obituary

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1998-08-13 Stage.jpg


I first met Ken in 1983 when I joined the cast of the highly successful soap opera Take the High Road, which had been running for several years and was Scottish Television's flagship.

At the first rehearsal I realised that I knew no one and that the cast might be wondering what an elderly quiz panellist was doing there anyway. One of them, with red hair and a kindly, craggy face, came over and shook my hand. Then he introduced me to all the others and contrived to tell them a bit about my career. It was a marvellous thing to do, but that was Ken all over.

A highlight of the show was the wonderful acting partnership between Ken and Eileen McCallum as Brian and Isabel Blair of Blair's Stores, the village shop. Ken played this complex role with complete consistency for eight years, an actor who studied his part in depth, which is much more than learning the lines.

He also saw to it that we were a happy cast, and was our spokesman with the manage ment, to whom he frequently and fearlessly spoke his mind, but it was all out of loyalty to us and the show, which he loved and wanted to see presented as well as it could be.

Ken was born in London of Scottish parents and found his metier when the English master persuaded him to join the school Shakespeare society. He studied at RADA, interrupted in the middle of National Service in the RAF. His first jobs were in repertory north of the border, but it was not long before he was spotted by a television producer, who cast him in Emergency - Ward 10 as a doctor who contracts polio.

He was soon one of the most sought-after actors in TV drama series. The names speak for themselves: Dixon of Dock Green, Z Cars, Doctor Who, Coronation Street, The Brothers, Crown Court, Upstairs Downstairs, Emmerdale Farm, Clochemerle, and his last TV performance about a year ago was in The Bill.

He described himself as a jobbing actor and said it with pride. It meant, of course, an actor able to turn his hand to a wide variety of roles and play them with authority and conviction, be it Shakespeare or a sketch with Les Dawson, whom he liked very much.

Then, in mid-career he played the lead in a play on TV called Too Close to the Edge, about a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He gave a brilliant performance. After he left High Road it was hard to convince directors to cast him as anyone else after eight years in a high-profile series. About four years ago, he developed a rare, nonmalignant illness which intermittently incapacitated him and much of the time made looking for work impossible.

Ken and I talked on the phone most days at that time. Despite having to face an uncertain future, he was always cheerful. He loved his allotment near his home in Teddington, which he called the farm, and his class of students, of whom he spoke in mock despair. He would read me explosive letters to The Stage, which often never got posted, and we shared a love of music.

He faced his final illness, unconnected with what had gone before, with the same bravery he had shown all along, joking with doctors and nurses to the end. His one great comfort through these years of adversity was the love and support of his wife Joan and their two grown-up children Jamie and Katy, whom he adored. A fine actor, a devoted family man, great company and a generous, loyal friend.

MI If desired, donations may be sent to Ralph Bates, Pancreatic Cancer Relief Fund, c/o FW

Paine, 102 High Street,

Teddington TW11.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Wallace, Ian (1998-08-13). Kenneth Wilson obituary. The Stage p. 31.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Wallace, Ian. "Kenneth Wilson obituary." The Stage [add city] 1998-08-13, 31. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Wallace, Ian. "Kenneth Wilson obituary." The Stage, edition, sec., 1998-08-13
  • Turabian: Wallace, Ian. "Kenneth Wilson obituary." The Stage, 1998-08-13, section, 31 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Kenneth Wilson obituary | url= | work=The Stage | pages=31 | date=1998-08-13 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Kenneth Wilson obituary | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 April 2024}}</ref>