Only Fools and Horses

SITCOM SORROW Curse of Only Fools and Horses… from shock heart attack on Hawaii holiday to sudden death mid-filming & cancer tragedies

IT’S one of Britain’s best loved shows – despite ending decades ago.

Only Fools and Horses holds a special place in our hearts along with sitcoms like Dad’s Army and Fawlty Towers.

Only Fools and Horses is a British classic loved by millions

Only Fools and Horses is a British classic loved by millionsCredit: BBC

The late Kate Saunders in Only Fools And Horses, where her character dated Rodney

The late Kate Saunders in Only Fools And Horses, where her character dated RodneyCredit: BBC

But over the years its cast has been hit by a series of tragic early deaths – the latest being Kate Saunders, who passed away this month aged 62.

She was best known for playing police woman Sandra in the 1982 episode The Long Legs of the Law.

In another blow actor Patrick Murray, who played Mickey Pearce, has revealed his lung cancer has returned.

The 66-year-old was diagnosed last year and believed he was in remission.

Only Fools and Horses star reveals cancer has returned and spread

Del Boy actor David Jason previously compared the number of Only Fools tragedies to the high death rate among the Dad’s Army cast soon after it ended in 1977.

He admitted he and co-star Nicholas Lyndhurst, who played Rodney, don’t like to talk about the show anymore because of the sadness at their friends’ deaths.

In his book, he wrote: “People talk about the curse of Dad’s Army but surely the less noticed ‘curse of Only Fools’ runs it a close second.”

Here we remember some of the show’s greats who were taken too soon.

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Patrick Murray revealed his cancer has returned

Patrick Murray revealed his cancer has returned

Kenneth MacDonald

Kenneth MacDonald played loveable landlord Mike Fischer

Kenneth MacDonald played loveable landlord Mike Fischer

Known to millions as Mike the landlord, Kenneth’s much-loved character Mike Fischer was voted runner up in a poll to find TV’s top pint-puller.

He was beaten only by Coronation Street’s brassy barmaid Bet Lynch.

The actor was just 50 when he died from a heart attack in Hawaii while on holiday to celebrate the birthdays of both his wife Sheila and his then 14-year-old daughter Charlotte.

David Jason said Kenneth’s death was “like losing a member of the family” while co-star Nicholas said he would always be “one of my favourite people”, adding that he would be “mourned by a thousand friends and making angels laugh”.

MacDonald also starred as Gunner ‘Nobby’ Clark in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and had a role as a far-right garage owner in long-running soap Brookside, as well as a successful stage career.

As Mikey, he put up with the Trotter’s wheeling and dealing in the Nag’s Head and rolled his eyes at Del Boy’s requests for outlandish cocktails.

John Sullivan

John Sullivan created the Trotter brothers

John Sullivan created the Trotter brothersCredit: PA:Press Association

The series writer died aged 64 after a six week battle with viral pneumonia in 2011.

John, who was awarded an OBE for his work, was once described as the ‘Dickens of his generation’, highlighting social injustice and cultural shifts in comic series such as Citizen Smith, Roger Roger and Dear John.

Actor Stephen Fry called him “one of the greatest comedy writers of our time”.

It was John who created the Trotter brothers, whose attempts to make a quick fortune saw Only Fools regularly voted the country’s favourite sitcom.

It ran for a decade from 1991 with 16 Christmas specials until 2003.  The 1996 special, called Time On Our Hands, was watched by 24 million viewers – a record for a sitcom at the time.

John once said Del Boy was a combination of lots of people he met working in the second-hand car trade in the 70s, while Rodney was a “teeny bit me” because he too was a “naïve dreamer” as a teenager.

Roger Lloyd Pack

Roger Lloyd Pack played Trigger

Roger Lloyd Pack played Trigger

Roger was a firm fan favourite as dim-witted road sweeper Trigger.

Viewers will forever remember the scene in which Del Boy falls through the open bar in the Nag’s Head as he and Trigger discuss how to chat up the ‘yuppie’ clientele.

But Roger, who died of pancreatic cancer aged 69 in 2014, hated being compared to his Only Fools character in real life.

Co-star John Challis, who played cigar-chomping Boycie, once said: “Roger would get quite cross when people who’d had a few drinks would stumble up to us at the bar and start talking to us like we were still in Only Fools and Horses.

“I remember somebody at a convention came up to Roger with a mic pretending to be Trigger. He went ballistic.”

John Challis, who played Boycie, died in 2021

John Challis, who played Boycie, died in 2021Credit: Rex

John, who died in his sleep in 2021 after a long battle with cancer, aged 79, added: “He was always trying to live down the Trigger thing because people tended to think he was a bit dim. But, of course, he was exactly the opposite.”

Roger got the gig by chance.

The beloved star, who also starred in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Vicar of Dibley, was discovered when show producer Ray Butt went to watch actor Bill Murray in a play, who was a potential choice for Del Boy.

He saw Roger perform and snapped him up.

Kate Saunders

Kate Saunders was an author later in life

Kate Saunders was an author later in lifeCredit: Rex

Kate’s copper character Sandra dated Rodney in an amusing episode. Del and Grandad were left horrified when he brought her home – forcing them to frantically try and hide stolen goods.

Mum-of-one Kate started her career as an actress but quickly moved into writing and won a Betty Trask prize for her first novel The Prodigal Father in 1986.

She later said: “I was quite plain for an actress, but for a writer I was gorgeous.”

Kate’s sister Louise tweeted news of her passing, writing: “My sister, who we lost last Friday. The warmest, bravest, most generous and most brilliant woman I will ever know. Heaven knows how we will live without her.”

Kate also starred in Angels in 1978, ITV Playhouse in 1979, A Family Affair in 1979, and Just Good Friends in 1984.

But writing was her love and she produced more than 20 novels, ranging from children’s books to detective and romance stories.

She was also a columnist for the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Express, She and Cosmopolitan.

Kate was a guest on the first episode of Have I Got News for You in 1990 and made regular appearances on BBC Radio 4 shows such as Woman’s Hour and Start the Week.

She was told she had multiple sclerosis in 1993 on the same day she gave birth to her son Felix.

Lennard Pearce

Lennard Pearce was the original Granddad

Lennard Pearce was the original GranddadCredit: BBC

Lennard played Granddad before Buster Merryfield.

He was in poor health while filming the fourth series of Only Fools and suffered a heart attack in December 1984.

Scriptwriter John Sullivan visited him in hospital and promised the role would be left open for him, but Lennard, 69, died three days after being discharged from hospital.

Lennard was loved by the cast and his death hit them hard, especially since they had to reshoot several episodes and film Grandad’s funeral.

Nicholas Lyndhurst was just 23 at the time and was particularly upset.

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Speaking on the Channel 5 special documentary We Love Only Fools and Horses, Director Tony Dow explained: “It was a tricky time, obviously we were all sad.

“But Nick was genuinely really, really upset and didn’t come out of it for quite some time. I think he loved Lennard as a grandfather, I think he thought he was the grandfather that Nick never had.”

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