Obituary: Roger Lloyd Pack, actor

Roger Lloyd Pack
Roger Lloyd Pack
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Born: 8 February, 1944, in London. Died: 15 January, 2014, aged 69

Roger Lloyd Pack was a jobbing actor who had been plying his trade for years when one of the producers of a new sitcom called Only Fools and Horses happened to see him in a West End play after going to check out another actor for the role of Del Boy.

The producers opted for David Jason as the lead over Lloyd Pack’s cast mate, but were sufficiently impressed with Lloyd Pack to give him a regular supporting role as Del Boy’s drinking buddy Trigger.

As Trigger, Lloyd Pack became one of the most popular characters on what was Britain’s most popular sitcom.

Only Fools and Horses began in 1981, ran on and off for more than 20 years, attracted record viewing figures and in 2004 topped a BBC poll to decide the nation’s favourite sitcom.

Trigger was a road sweeper, who claimed his nickname reflected his past in armed robbery, though Del Boy said it was because he looked like a horse.

Lloyd Pack did have long, slightly equine features which he did well to keep entirely blank as joke after joke went right over Trigger’s head.

Trigger elevated stupidity to an art form and yet it was rooted in reality.

He was never a grotesque, just not very bright, maintaining that he did not know who his father was, as he had died “a couple of years” before he was born.

Only Fools and Horses made Lloyd Pack instantly recognisable throughout the land, and farther afield, and it transformed his career.

He played the farmer Owen, another character with limited social skills, in The Vicar of Dibley, which came third in the BBC’s 2004 All-Time Greats poll.

Belatedly recognised as something of a national treasure, Lloyd Pack reflected a certain dour aspect of the British national character.

He appeared in prestigious period dramas, as well as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Doctor Who and had a starring role in the sitcom The Old Guys, which ran for two seasons in 2009 and 2010. He and Clive Swift played ageing flatmates, both lusting after Jane Asher.

Lloyd Pack was the middle generation in a distinguished acting family. His father Charles Lloyd Pack played authority figures in dozens of British films and television series from the 1950s to the 1980s, and his daughter is Emily Lloyd, who burst on to the scene as a teenager in the drama Wish You Were Here in 1987.

Roger Lloyd Pack was born in London in 1944. His mother was a travel agent and the family enjoyed a relatively affluent existence in Kensington.

However, Lloyd Pack never felt particularly close to his father and remembered him as “remote” and “angry”.

As a boy he staged his own little productions of Shakespeare with glove puppets and pursued his interest in drama at Bedales, the famously liberal boarding school in Hampshire, and then at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

In the latter 1960s he began getting small parts in film and television and had supporting roles in the early 1970s in The Go-Between and Fiddler on the Roof.

But he was working largely in theatre at this time and came to Edinburgh in 1972 for a production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Royal Lyceum, in which he played the art master Teddy Lloyd.

Lloyd Pack married his first wife Sheila in 1968 and Emily was born in 1970, but the marriage broke down when his daughter was still very young, something Lloyd Pack later suggested may have contributed to her problems as an adult.

Throughout the 1970s he continued to work in theatre and appear intermittently on television in a variety of series and one-off dramas, including Crown Court, The Naked Civil Servant and The Professionals.

On a personal level he had begun a lasting relationship with the poet and dramatist Jehane “Jan” Markham. They first met when she was 12 and he was 17 and visiting his uncle’s cottage near where she lived in Sussex.

They had three children and eventually married in 2000 in Aberdeen, where Lloyd Pack had been appearing in Art at His Majesty’s, with Barry Foster and Nigel Havers.

“We were married 25 years to the day we started going out,” he said in an interview a few years ago.

“We were staying in this charming hotel just outside Aberdeen. There’d been a lot of rain and the rivers were overflowing. It was such a beautiful, passionate place.”

His success in Only Fools and Horses, and subsequently The Vicar of Dibley, led to more substantial roles, both on stage and screen.

On television he was the historian and Holocaust denier David Irving in Selling Hitler and the undertaker Mr Sowerberry in a television adaptation of Oliver Twist, with Robert Lindsay as Fagin. His film credits include the 2011 big-screen version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

His last acting engagement was last year in a Shakespeare double bill of Richard the Third and Twelfth Night, with Mark Rylance, at the Globe and in London’s West End.

Fame, he said, was both a blessing and a curse. While he seemed to enjoy aspects of it, he thought it was difficult for his children and expressed concern that his eldest son Spencer had joined a religious community.

He is survived by his second wife and their three grown-up sons Spencer, Hartley and Louis, as well as his daughter Emily.

BRIAN PENDREIGH