Obituary: Alan Devereux, actor

Alan Devereux, actor who played Sid Perks in The Archers for many years. Picture: PA
Alan Devereux, actor who played Sid Perks in The Archers for many years. Picture: PA
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Born: 1941 in Birmingham. Died: 29 May 2016 in Warwichshire. Aged 75.

Alan Devereux spent almost half a century voicing the role of Sid Perks in that everyday story of country folk, The Archers. Devereux was a central figure in many of the stories in Radio 4’s long-running soap, especially after he took over as landlord of The Bull.

Devereux’s voice was a natural for radio drama: clear, well enunciated and accurate diction: there was no mistaking, even in the early days with his heavy Brummie accent, who was speaking. From the moment his character spoke in a scene listeners knew immediately it was Sid.

Devereux developed the character from the tearaway Birmingham former Borstal boy who arrived in deepest Borsetshire in 1963. He became one of the backbones of the village and contributed much to community life. Sid took over the pub in 1972 and ran it until his character was killed off in 2010.

Sid’s character, in the hands of Devereux, was a reliable and a kind-hearted person. He also got excellent support from Caroline Bone (played by Sara Coward) who he had hired as a barmaid when she first arrived in Ambridge in 1977. Later she married well and, for a time, had a majority share in The Bull.

Alan Devereux was educated in Sutton Coldfield but left aged 14 to attend evening classes in speech and drama and then studied at the Birmingham Theatre School. He was cast in several roles at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and acted as assistant stage manager at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham. In his youth he did much radio work from Birmingham but when he landed the role of Sid he was unable to accept theatre work and concentrated much of his time and energies on the soap.

His voice, however, ensured he was in much demand for radio dramas, voiceovers for audio-visual films, promotional videos and radio commercials. Devereux was also heard as the voice over on many television adverts.

From the beginning Devereux captured his troubled background on the radio. He took issue with Jack Wooley over work schedules but they formed a good friendship, as Wooley had originated from the back streets of ­Birmingham.

But Sid’s arrival was established when the original stalwarts of the soap – Dan and Doris Archer – asked him to go on a trip to Scotland. They went to the top of Cairngorm and saw for miles in the brilliant sunshine.

Sid was the mainstay of the seven-a-side cricket competition and captained the team in the needle match against the Cat and Fiddle. However, he resigned the captaincy when he found out the number one batsman was gay. Former Test opener Mike Gatting got involved in several episodes in 2007 after a misunderstanding between Sid and Jolene during the Village Cup final at Lords.

In 1979, Sid hit the front pages when in the episode broadcast after the general election (but pre-recorded before the ballot), he commented on Mrs Thatcher’s victory. William Smethhurst, then editor of the programme, recalled: “In the studio Alan Devereux remained at the microphone expecting an alternative script to be given to him. It didn’t come.” Ambridge was accused of being the only place in the UK that had prior knowledge of the result.

Devereux’s finest moment came in 2000 when he had a sensual shower with his girlfriend Jolene Rogers (Buffy Davis). She was a country singer, introduced as a “saucy line dancer”.

The scene that made the headlines was of Sid and Jolene in the shower with Sid saying, “Oh Jolene you’ve got a lovely back”, followed by Sid gasping, “Ooh, Jolene, you shouldn’t be doing that. You’ll be the death of me.” Sex had arrived in Borsetshire. Many fans were appalled.

The then editor, Vanessa Whitburn declared: “It is not a cynical exercise to boost ratings. It is a story about life, and we do them all the time.”

Another storm brewed when Sid was suddenly written out of the soap. He died while jogging in New Zealand. Stories appeared in the press suggesting Devereux was ill or that he had fallen out with Whitburn.

But Devereux throughout his three marriages – to Polly (killed in a car crash), Kathy (who he divorced) and Jolene – created a credible and harmonious relationship which maintained the listeners’ interest in his character.

Devereux is survived by his wife, Christine, whom he married in 1965 and their son and daughter. His daughter, Tracy Jane White, played his on-air daughter, Lucy.