Entertainment & Arts

Arnold Peters, Archers actor, dies

Arnold Peters and June Spencer as Jack and Peggy Woolley
Image caption Arnold Peters took over the role of Jack Woolley in May 1980

Archers actor Arnold Peters, who played businessman Jack Woolley in the Radio 4 soap, has died at the age of 87 at a care home in Northamptonshire.

Peters, who had Alzheimer's disease, joined the show as Jack in May 1980 and was last heard on air in July 2011.

A storyline which told of his character's Alzheimer's helped the show to win the Mental Health Media Award in 2007.

June Spencer, who played wife Peggy, paid tribute to a "complete pro".

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Media captionProducers visited the actor's home to record his final episode

"He loved acting - it was his life," she said.

"I picture him in the latter days in the green room with his stick and his cap, always very genial."

She added: "He was very conscientious - he always turned in a good performance no matter what we were doing."

She said Peters, who took over a part originally played by Philip Garston-Jones, was "very active, all the time, whether it was for charity or professionally", and produced amateur dramatic shows, was a country dance caller and a drummer.

'Enormous skill'

In 2011, the Archers team visited Peters at his home, near Northampton, to record what would be his final scenes.

"His memory was failing but he could still turn in a good performance," said Spencer.

"He read it perfectly. We worked together just as we'd always done, up to the last."

Peters, who died on Saturday afternoon, had previously appeared in the Archers playing characters including Welsh farmhand "with a past" Len Thomas, in 1953, and Rev David Latimer, from 1968 to 1973.

His character Jack Woolley, who was born in Birmingham in 1919, was previously married to Valerie, who he divorced in 1974, and had a loyal chauffeur, Higgs, and a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Captain.

In 2009, the character moved into the Laurels care home, where he still lives.

The Archers editor Vanessa Whitburn said that, with "enormous skill", Peters took the character of Jack Woolley "from sharp, sometimes ruthless businessman, mellowing through the years into retirement and eventual dependence on wife Peggy, as Alzheimer's set in".

"Only the best actors can fine tune those character arcs over many years and Arnold was the best," she added.

After serving in the RAF during World War II, Peters worked at Northampton Repertory Theatre - now the Royal Theatre, Northampton - for five years.

He performed in BBC Children's Hour productions and was also a member of the corporation's Drama Repertory Company in Birmingham.

In the 1990s, he appeared as a grandfather in TV adverts for Werther's Original toffees

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