Acting star Ian Richardson dies

EDINBURGH-born actor Ian Richardson, best remembered as the Machiavellian chief whip Francis Urquhart in landmark BBC drama House of Cards, died today. He was 72.

Richardson died in his sleep at his London home in the early hours of this morning.

His death came as a shock as he had not been ill and was due to begin filming his next role in TV show Midsomer Murders next week, his agent said.

City council leader Ewan Aitken paid tribute to Richardson, who was made a CBE in 1989.

Cllr Aitken said: "He was a well-known figure in the world of theatre, film and television who I understand was very proud of his Edinburgh routes.

"His success is an inspiration for all our creative youngsters and he is a great loss to the world of the arts and to the city. The fact that he was still filming at 72-years-old is no surprise - he never stopped working."

Cllr Aitken added that the lead actress in House of Cards was his wife's cousin and she considered Richardson a personal friend. He said: "She talked really highly of him. She was a very young actress at the time and he was very experienced but she said that he was a gentleman and always treated her as an equal."

Richardson was brought up in a flatted villa in Balgreen Road.

In an Evening News interview in 2000, he recalled: "My parents were wonderful. My father had begun with McVitie's and Price off the Gorgie Road at the age of 14 loading and unloading horse-drawn vehicles and from there worked his way up to become a general manager.

"My father went off to war and my mother did rather well for us because she kept poultry and was able to swap eggs for anything we needed."

Richardson enjoyed his early schooldays at Balgreen Primary School, but said preferred to forget his "ghastly" time at Tynecastle High.

In the 2000 interview, he said: "It would be very different now but then I don't think they had a clue what to do with me, they certainly didn't understand me. I cannot remember having any friends there either. I hated it."

He became involved with the amateur Edinburgh People's Theatre which had rehearsal rooms in Hanover Street and performed at a small theatre in The Pleasance.

Richardson studied at College of Dramatic Art in Glasgow and went on to work for the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He appeared in television movies and series in the 1980s, including twice as Sherlock Homes in The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four.

He also starred in Terry Gilliam's film Brazil, Cry Freedom and The Fourth Protocol.

But it was the political thriller House of Cards which made him a nationally-recognised figure.

He used to return to Edinburgh to visit his sisters in Blackhall and Corstorphine, but avoided the city at Festival time.

"I cannot stand the Festival," he said. "It seems so superficial. Edinburgh changes her clothes for the Festival and I don't like the clothes she chooses ... definitely a time to avoid for me."

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