Entertainment & Arts

Sir Tony Robinson leads tributes to actress Patsy Byrne

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Media captionWatch a clip of Patsy Byrne in action as 'Nursie'

Sir Tony Robinson has led tributes to British actress Patsy Byrne, best known for playing Nursie in Blackadder, who has died aged 80.

Sir Tony played dim-witted sidekick Baldrick in the show and cast Byrne in his Maid Marion and Her Merry Men series.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live she had been like a mother to "her boys" on the Blackadder set.

"Patsy was just a real confident centre of all the scenes," he said.

"She had unerring skill to make the daftest, silliest thing sound absolutely real and absolutely plausible," he added.

Image caption She also appeared opposite Rex Harrison in the 1971 BBC adaptation of Chekhov's play Platonov

"I was so fond of her as a person and so in awe of her capabilities that when I decided I wanted to introduce a mother to Maid Marion, my first choice was Patsy.

"I was thrilled that she took it. Even though she has done such grand work she came down to Minehead and rolled her sleeves up and was just one of the lads, as she always was, and did a great performance."

Broadcaster and actor Stephen Fry, who played Lord Melchett alongside Byrne, tweeted: "Oh lord no! I've just heard that Patsy Byrne, darling Nursie has died. Hope St Bernard has welcomed her to eternal rest. Adorable woman."

Blackadder producer John Lloyd also paid tribute to Byrne, saying she and Miranda Richardson, who played Queen Elizabeth I, were a "fantastic double act".

Byrne played Nursie - the kind but dim-witted nursemaid to Elizabeth I - in the second series of BBC comedy Blackadder in 1986.

Image caption In 1992, she featured alongside her Blackadder co-star Tony Robinson in children's sitcom Maid Marian and Her Merry Men

"It's ironic that she will be remembered for that lovable, slightly idiotic person with that ludicrous drawl, but she was a proper actress. With the RSC, she played Chekhov opposite Rex Harrison, was incredibly well spoken, but she would put up with our little ways," he told 5 Live.

"The rehearsals on Blackadder were interminable, with us changing our minds all the time and she was always on top of it and she never complained. We had famous actors walk out of rehearsals because it was such a nightmare and shambles. But with Patsy there was never a peep of complaint."

Byrne died on Tuesday at Denville Hall, a retirement home for actors, in Hillingdon, north-west London.

The Kent-born actress joined the Royal Shakespeare Company after drama school and took on TV and theatre roles.

Image caption Byrne's other roles included Z Cars

Her other roles included the ITV sitcom Watching and the classic police series Z Cars. She also made appearances in Holby City and I, Claudius, and played Mrs Nubbles in the BBC's 1979 adaption of The Old Curiosity Shop.

Byrne's death came just over a week after Rik Mayall, who shared screen time with her as Lord Flashheart in Blackadder, died suddenly at his home in London.

Blackadder ran for four series between 1983 and 1989 - with writing credits shared between Rowan Atkinson, Richard Curtis and Ben Elton. The comedy followed the exploits of Atkinson's Blackadder character through various historical periods.

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