Raising a glass to Minder - and endless repeats

HE has done more than a thousand TV shows with some of the biggest names in the business. But what Glynn Edwards is best remembered for is Minder.

He was Dave the barman of the Winchester Club - still acclaimed as "the best thing in it" - in 100 of the 120 episodes of the series spanning 15 years.

We were in a bar, the Cameo in Leith’s Commercial Street, where Glynn was expertly quaffing a pint as he fondly reflected on his Minder days.

"I can’t be anything other than fond in my recollections, can I, when it’s still part of my life after all these years? Financially speaking anyway. It’s being screened three times a day seven days a week on satellite channels Paramount 1 and 2. And I get royalties."

The stars of the show were George Cole and Dennis Waterman, but Glynn was the scene-stealer. It’s hardly surprising that so many people instantly recall Minder, it was for so long a magnetic attraction with viewers nationwide. At its peak it had an audience of 15 million and it never failed to pull at least ten million.

They warmed to the perfectly-cast Dave the barman for his conviviality and, often, for his assured delivery of the best lines in the scripts. By then, though, at 50 he had been around and worn all the T-shirts as a workaday actor. But what had brought him, at the age of 73, to Leith to put up these past four months in a rented flat round the corner from this pub?

He explains that the visit was originally planned because his eldest daughter was getting married in the Capital - where his younger daughter also lives.

"When we drove up here in a camper van in late summer, the idea was to spend a day or two in Edinburgh before motoring on to tour the Highlands. It poured the first day we were here and rained so hard the next couple of days - and we took such a shine to Edinburgh - that we said, sod it, we’ll settle here until the wedding."

"We" means him and his wife Valerie, 60. "Val’s my third wife. I can break down my marital record quite neatly for you - ten years, ten years and, so far, 20 years with this one."

The first Mrs Edwards was a fellow actor destined to become a household name, Yootha Joyce, who was to succumb ultimately to an alcohol problem in her early fifties. Glynn speaks of her with palpable affection.

"We first met when I, all arrogance at the age of 23, took a company out on tour with a play called Call of the Flesh. I hired Yootha and we hung out together.

"We married in 1958 and worked for Joan Littlewood’s renowned theatre workshop, staying with Joan through some 40 plays over eight years and a play on Broadway. We divorced in ’68 and Yootha became a big star in telly series like George and Mildred. She remained a divorcee and she died in 1980 aged 53. She was a lovely lady.

"My second marriage, another ten-year association, was relatively uneventful and, I suppose, you could say that Val, who’s not in the profession, and I have put all that behind us. We are enjoying life, living in Spain with a house near Alicante. Val keeps me going."

HIS daughter’s wedding, held on Tuesday at Cramond, has been the main reason for staying put in Leith rather than returning to Spain for winter sun.

"My elder daughter Melanie, a Londoner in her late thirties, and her now husband Malcolm Newman also live in Spain where they are in the estate business.

"They’d got a irresistible picture of Cramond from younger daughter Rebecca and her husband Stuart. They’ve been managing the Cramond Inn - as employees, they don’t own it - and the inn seemed a natural venue for the reception after marrying just up the road in the kirk. It was all so picturesque down there by the river, it had me thinking it would make an ideal location for a TV series."

Too old to play the barman in such a scenario? "Oh, I rather think so, don’t you? I more or less stopped working when I hit 65. You might at a push say I’m mainly retired and semi-working, doing chat shows and voice-overs.

"To be truthful I find it increasingly difficult to remember the lines. It’s been a great life, I have to say, most of it spent earning a living as a television actor for 30 years. Forty-five years overall as an actor."

Glynn was born in Penang, Malaya in 1931. His father was a rubber planter and when he returned to England he opened a pub in Salisbury. He died in 1946, having seen precious little of his son, who was brought up by grandparents in Southsea.

"I left school at 15, I was a total dunce," he confesses. "I was talked into sugar cane farming in Trinidad but had little enthusiasm for it and I was helping to manage a country club in Port of Spain, with acting a sort of hobby, when I came back to London aged 21 and joined the Central School of Speech and Drama. That led to me forming my own small touring company."

His love affair with the cameras began in 1958 with an ATV series about Sir Francis Drake. "We did ten episodes, starring Terence Morgan in the title role and Jean Kent as Queen Elizabeth. Michael Crawford, in what was his first job, played the ship’s drummer.

"It was early days for TV, we never ever put to sea. The ship was made of cardboard and they wobbled the cameras to make it look like we were sailing.

"I got my first West End break, along with Yootha, in Lionel Bart’s musical Things Ain’t What They Used to Be. It was a huge hit running there for two years. I got a year’s work out of it, as the razor king, a heavy Cockney part, and Max Bygraves had a big hit record with the title song."

Telly work poured in and he spent two years in The Main Chance starring John Stride, another two years in The Paper Lads and a lengthy run in The Public Eye, a vehicle for the late Alfred Burke.

He was in 20 episodes, including the finale, of Dixon of Dock Green, featuring Britain’s best-loved copper, Jack Warner.

"I was fortunate enough to meet up with Michael Crawford again years later in Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em.

"The show made feckless Frank Spencer famous, played of course by Michael.

"It was a smash but people are amazed to know that there were only a dozen episodes. I was in three.

"Michael was a pleasure to work with. We’ve stayed in touch although it’s a year or more since I last heard from him, he’s so busy - a tremendous talent."

Glynn’s talents extended to cinema. He was offered simultaneously a part in Joan Littlewood’s stage production Oh, What a Lovely War and the classic movie Zulu.

"I’ve never regretted opting for Zulu," he recalled with a grin. "I was the big hero, not Michael Caine or Stanley Baker. They had me play Corporal Allen, winner of the Victoria Cross for his heroics at Rorke’s Drift."

The versatile, dependable Glynn also ventured into one of the earliest soaps, the BBC’s Newcomers, for a year.

"I suppose I’m the envy of many an actor," he said, savouring his pint (he’s a snuff man, having given up smoking a long time ago). "I hardly knew what it was like to be unemployed. In fact, I only had to sign on once at the Labour Exchange.

"I’m comfortable, yes. But I’m not a big movie or telly star. I’m not what you could call Mr Megabucks. Put it this way, I’ve enough put by to do that tour of your Highlands next year, weather permitting."

Snuff said.