Ronnie Barker

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Ronnie Barker Pencil Portrait
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The quality of the prints are at a much higher level compared to the image shown on the left.


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Last update: 13/7/16

A bronze statue of the late comedy legend Ronnie Barker can be located in Aylesbury where he began his acting career more than 60 years ago.

Aylesbury Vale District council commissioned sculptor Martin Jennings to design the statue as part of its Waterside development project and it now takes pride of place in the new public space outside the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre entrance in Exchange Street. The work was officially unveiled by Ronnie’s widow, Joy in early 2012, in a ceremony attended by some of her husband’s former colleagues, including long-time comedy partner Ronnie Corbett and ‘Open All Hours’ co-star David Jason. Mr. Jennings had depicted the comic writer and performer in his role as prison inmate Norman Stanley Fletcher, from the classic 1970’s series ‘Porridge’, sitting on a stone bench looking up at the new theatre. The bitter irony of this connection would not have been lost on a man who did not see his own son, a fugitive on the run from the police, for the last year of his life.

The award-winning director Peter Hall famously described Barker’s early defection to comedy as a tragedy. “Ronnie Barker was the great actor we lost.” Money – or a distinct lack of it – may have had its part to play in his formative thespian years. The young Ronnie had joined his local amateur dramatics society; and he was soon hooked by the experience, and with a singular sense of purpose, now determined to make it as a professional actor.

But there would be setbacks. Barker tried, and failed, to get into the prestigious Young Vic acting school and was allegedly rejected by RADA too. But he was eventually accepted by the Manchester Repertory Company – who were then based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire – albeit only as a helper to the assistant stage manager, with the promise of the occasional acting part. His wages – less than £12 a month – was poor pay, even in 1948. That year, though, saw his professional stage debut and by the time he’d taken to the boards for the third time he realised he actually wanted to be a comic actor – “Forget Hamlet, I want to make people laugh!”

Recommended viewing

The Bargee (1964)

The Saint – The better mousetrap (1968)

Futtock’s End (1969)

The Two Ronnies (1971-1987)

Porridge (1974-79)

Available now in a handy 4 DVD box set that compiles all three of the BBC\‘s celebrated comedy series with the Christmas Specials, this is Barker in undoubtedly his greatest role, as old lag Norman Stanley Fletcher, a recidivist who uses his cunning wiles to outwit McKay, Barrowclough, the Guvnor and every screw in sight, in a remote Cumberland nick named \“Slade Prison\”.

The Picnic (1976)

Open all hours (1976-1985)

By the sea (1982)

The Gathering Storm (2002)

Barker’s acting swansong and a fitting finale to a great career. Churchill’s wilderness years, Albert Finney, Vanessa Redgrave and the promise of a cameo from Ronnie, this BBC/HBO production promised much and more than delivered.

The comedian had fended off numerous offers to revive his television career, but was eventually persuaded to come out of retirement by Albert Finney. Focusing on Churchill’s private life during the pre-war years and his struggle to resurrect his career, Barker’s portrayal of his manservant Inches, provides moments of genuine humour.

Winston Churchill: “You’re very rude to me, Inches.”
David Inches: “You’re very rude to me, sir.”
Winston Churchill: “Yes but I am a great man!”
[Churchill leaves the room.]
David Inches: “No, you’re not. You’re a stupid ole bugger.”