Obituary: Keith Barron, actor, best known for TV work, including Duty Free
TV stalwart Keith Barron will be remembered for his wondrously large array of small-screen roles, which saw him rarely out of work since the 1960s. Barron was born in South Yorkshire in 1934 and, instead of going into the family wholesale food business, he opted to become an actor.
Having initially trained at the Sheffield Playhouse – where he met his wife, Mary Pickard – he went on to work in repertory theatre and the West End.
Following his TV debut in The Avengers in 1961, Barron became a household name thanks to appearing in a large number of popular programmes. He starred in police series The Odd Man and its spin-off, It’s Dark Outside, but it was his role as Nigel Barton in Dennis Potter’s plays Stand Up, Nigel Barton and Vote, Vote, Vote For Nigel Barton in 1965 which was his real breakthrough.
There were also several one-off performances in the likes of Z-Cars, Conflict and The Troubleshooters, among many others. But it was 1980s sitcom Duty Free that will perhaps be the most fondly remembered by his fans.
The comedy series followed the lives of working-class northerners David and Amy Pearce, played by Barron and Gwen Taylor, and Oxfordshire-based middle-class couple Linda and Robert Cochran (Joanna Van Gyseghem and Neil Stacy). The couples meet while on holiday in Spain, with David and Linda embarking on a love affair. The series ran from 1984 until 1986, but enjoyed a stage revival in 2014 with Barron, Taylor and Stacy reprising their roles.
While being best-known for his TV work, Barron has starred in films including The Land That Time Forgot, At The Earth’s Core and Voyage Of The Damned. Other small-screen endeavours included Close Relations, Take Me Home, Benidorm, Where The Heart Is, Doctors, Holby City and Brief Encounters.
One of Barron’s most recent parts was as Arthur Banks, the father of Stephen Tompkinson’s character DCI Banks in the ITV crime series. The actor could well be considered one of the hardest-working people in TV, and was rarely out of work, something he confessed was a bit “masochistic”.
Barron said in 2003: “If I’m out of work, I’m terrible. If I go out, I’m all the time wondering whether the phone’s rung while I’ve been out. And if I sit in waiting for it to ring, I’m like a bear with a sore head wondering why it hasn’t.
“You take nothing for granted. And the best thing about it is being offered another job. It keeps the whole thing alive.”
Barron died after a short illness. He is survived by Mary, his wife of 58 years, and son James, who is also an actor.