Only Fools and Horses

Only Fools and Horses star Buster Merryfield’s very ordinary life from hilarious reason he was cast as Uncle Albert to tragic death

He didn't become a professional actor until he was a pensioner

Buster Merryfield will always be remembered as the actor who played Uncle Albert in the iconic British sitcom Only Fools and Horses. He was brought into the show in 1985 following the death of actor Lennard Pearce, who played Grandad, in December 1984.

After Grandad had to be written out of the show, the writers of the sitcom wanted to maintain the presence of an elderly member of the Trotter family, so they introduced Uncle Albert, Grandad’s estranged brother.

Buster was chosen for the role because of his distinctive white beard. He was 64-years-old when he was first cast, but despite his age, he had very little professional acting experience.

READ MORE: Only Fools and Horses: Legendary actor Sir David Jason has road named after him in touching tribute

‘Only Fools and Horses’ actors Nicholas Lyndhurst, Buster Merryfield and David Jason during the filming of episode ‘The Class of ’62’ (Image: Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

Buster had long been an amateur dramatics actor, but his main source of income came from being a bank manager. As a young man, he also enjoyed a career in boxing.

He also spent time playing amateur football, and was a massive Millwall fan, often attending their matches at their home ground The Den. On top of that, he was a talented pianist, although he couldn’t read music. Instead, he would play by ear.

In his spare time, the young Buster would also go dancing at local discos. Before launching his professional acting career, he worked for 40 years for NatWest, then known as Westminster Bank.

Buster Merryfield played Uncle Albert until his death in 1999
Buster Merryfield played Uncle Albert until his death in 1999

One interesting thing about Buster is that much like his character Uncle Albert, he actually did serve in the army during the war. However, he certainly wasn’t as clumsy as his ship-sinking alter ego.

Due to his physique, Buster was made a PT and jungle warfare instructor. He was awarded an Emergency Commission in the Royal Artillery in 1942 and promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant.

While serving in the war, he was also made entertainments officer, meaning he was responsible for putting on shows for the troops. It was then that Buster first realised his passion for acting.

He continued to work as a banker until he retired in 1978. It was only then that he decided to pursue acting professionally and started acting in theatre plays. Eventually he stumbled upon the opportunity to play Uncle Albert, one of the most legendary characters to ever grace British television screens.

He continued to play the role until a brain tumour tragically claimed his life in 1999, at the age of 78. Uncle Albert’s death was then written into the subsequent episode of Only Fools and Horses, which went on for another fours years until the curtains were finally closed on the show in 2003.

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