The man, who most knew as Onslow, the slovenly bane of Hyacinth’s existence (except for one special moment on the QE2) in Keeping Up Appearances, has died at the age of 68. Geoffrey Hughes, one of the true British comedy greats, was also known to many over the years for his supporting role as Twiggy in The Royle Family, Vernon, in Heartbeat and binman, Eddie Yeats, in Coronation Street during the 1970’s and 80’s. Probably very few knew that Hughes was the voice of Paul McCartney in the Beatles film Yellow Submarine.
In what has become an extremely sad regular occurrence all too many times over the last several years, a British comedy icon that several of us have had the good fortune to spend some unforgettable quality time with during various productions and retrospectives for PBS has passed away. In recent years, the British comedy world has also lost the likes of John Inman, Mollie Sugden and Trevor Bannister from Are You Being Served, John Howard Davies, the producer genius behind making Monty Python’s Flying Circus a reality, John Sullivan, the creator of Only Fools and Horses and David Croft, creator of Are You Being Served and ‘Allo ‘Allo, among many others.
Over the last decade, we were very fortunate to spend some time with Geoffrey on the Isle of Wight taping interviews for The Funny Ladies of British Comedy, The Funny Blokes of British Comedy and Life Lessons from Onslow: A Keeping Up Appearances Special, all for PBS in the States. Back in 2004, we interviewed Geoffrey, an avid sailor on the Isle of Wight, for the Lenny Henry hosted PBS special, The Funny Blokes of British Comedy. Incredible scenery aside, this couldn’t have been a better day being in the company of a true comic genius and a most-hospitable host. Here, Geoffrey talks about his role as Onslow and that ‘special’ night with Hyacinth on the QE2.
In 2008, we took another 4mph ferry journey to the Isle of Wight to spend the day with Geoffrey for a special Open University course, Life Lessons with Onslow, where we opened the cardboard shoebox labeled Keeping Up Appearances – Onslow that held the props from the series including Onslow’s watch, t-shirt, tattoo kit and infamous FH hat. In 2008, Geoffrey channeled Onslow as if it had been yesterday that he last donned the FH hat and not some 13 years earlier. Here, ‘Onslow’ shares a few tips he’s learned from years of reading the Financial Times and watching Open University, starting with romance.
And, a final Life Lesson from Onslow as we remember an individual that has brought millions of smiles to British comedy fans worldwide and will continue to do so for many, many, years. RIP, Geoffrey. I will forever remember that evening when you ‘schooled’ the barman at the Hotel Fort Des Moines in the making of a proper cup of tea.