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Richard Briers

The Society’s much-loved President Richard Briers died on Sunday 17th February 2013.

As one of the nation’s favourite actors, Richard’s death naturally commanded extensive news coverage and lengthy obituaries in all the national media, and rightly so. In a career of over 50 years, he earned ‘National Treasure’ status for his roles in TV light comedies, notably The Good Life, and real respect for his work in serious theatre and film. Below, we offer links to much but not all of the excellent website coverage, many with links to film and video material. Here, however, we offer a brief, heartfelt appreciation of Richard Briers in his role as the Society’s first Honorary President.

Few, if any of the published obituaries of Richard Briers mentioned his film, radio and TV performances in Wodehouse roles. He began in 1961 in the film The Girl on the Boat, in what may have been a classic early Briers role though one, he said, which bore little relation to Wodehouse’s words. Later, he played some of Plum’s most endearing characters, in particular Bertie Wooster in several radio adaptations with what he described as ‘a First Eleven cast’, and then an excellent Gally Threepwood in Heavy Weather. He said it was Wodehouse that convinced him of the importance of a really good script, and quoted Simon Callow who said that it is only when you hear Wodehouse spoken aloud that you realise what a brilliant master of language he was.

Those performances were the reason that early in 1997, the Society invited Richard Briers to become the first Honorary President of the Society, and his appreciation of the quality of the scripts, and Wodehouse’s writing, was the reason he accepted. We were very fortunate that he did so for such was his fame and appeal, he was very much in demand. But as Richard said elsewhere on this website (click here to view), although he didn’t normally undertake commitments outside acting, when he was asked to become President of the newly-formed PG Wodehouse Society (UK) in 1997, he felt he really couldn’t refuse – and he was glad he hadn’t.

We were glad too, for Richard Briers was a very good President indeed. He was a fine Ambassador for the Society, very much setting the right benign, cheerful and entertaining tone – and there was the bonus that simply telling people the name of our President made people smile, and embrace the idea of any club of which he was a member.

Just as he was a hard-working actor, Richard was a hard-working President. He never refused us; whatever we asked of him he did, and with a smile. He showed every sign of enjoying the events he loyally attended, he was fun to be with, and absolutely one of us. It was typical of the man whose professional colleagues called self-deprecating; he always said he was just lucky.

Those of us that worked and talked with him about events will especially miss the kind and funny man it was an easy pleasure to deal with. “Hello darling”, he’d say – didn’t matter who it was – “Listen …” and off he’d go …

The PG Wodehouse Society will always be grateful to Richard Briers; in many ways, he gave us our identity. Certainly he gave us the flying start we needed, and we will never forget it.

At a Society event just two days after he died, we were proud to toast our late President with love and with thanks for his huge and formative contribution to our Society. We were very lucky to have him.

Hilary Bruce


Below are some of the tributes paid to this enormously popular actor and person:

A Life in Clips (Guardian)

Obituary (Daily Telegraph)

BBC News website coverage

Pictorial story (Daily Mail)