Blackadder loses a favourite as Patsy Byrne dies

PATSY BYRNE who made millions laugh as Nursie in the Blackadder television series has died at the age of 80.

Patsy Byrne as Nursie, right, with Miranda Richardson as Queen Elizabeth I in Blackadder II
Patsy Byrne as Nursie, right, with Miranda Richardson as Queen Elizabeth I in Blackadder II

Byrne was a classically-trained actress whose most famous role was as the “sad, insane, old woman with an udder fixation” .

She died at Denville Hall, a care home for elderly actors in north-west London.

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Byrne is the second star of the 1980s comedy to die this month following the death of Rik Mayall, who played Lord Flashheart.

The two shared screen time on Blackadder II in 1986, and she also starred alongside Tony Robinson who played dim-witted sidekick Baldrick in the show and cast Byrne in his Maid Marion and Her Merry Men ­series.

Robinson said in a radio ­interview: “I was so fond of her as a person and so in awe of her capabilities that when I decided I wanted to introduce a mother to Maid Marion, my first choice was Patsy. I was thrilled that she took it.

“Even though she has done such grand work she came down to Minehead and rolled her sleeves up and was just one of the lads, as she always was, and did a great performance.”

Robinson said it was “bizarre and hurtful” that both actors had died within such a short space of time.

He said: “The biggest tribute to them both is actually in terms of lines and appearances.

“Their contributions to Blackadder were quite small, and yet they are still absolutely remembered, and rightly so, as central to Blackadder.”

Stephen Fry, who played Lord Melchett in the series, described her as an “adorable woman”.

Blackadder producer John Lloyd paid tribute to Byrne, saying she and Miranda Richardson, who played Queen Elizabeth I, were a “fantastic double act”.

He said: “It’s ironic that she will be remembered for that lovable, slightly idiotic person with that ludicrous drawl, but she was a proper actress with the RSC [Royal Shakespeare Company]. She played Chekov opposite Rex Harrison, was incredibly well spoken, but she would put up with our little ways.

“The rehearsals on ­Blackadder were interminable, with us changing our minds all the time and she was always on top of it and she never complained.

“We had famous actors walk out of rehearsals because it was such a nightmare and shambles.

“But with Patsy there was never a peep of complaint.”

Blackadder, which was written by Ben Elton and Richard Curtis, ran for four series ­between 1983 and 1989. It followed the exploits of Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder character through various periods in ­history.

In the show Nursie, the childhood nurse of Queen Elizabeth I, frequently embarrasses herself by recounting tales of the Queen’s childhood prompting the standard reply of “Shut up Nursie”. Lord Blackadder ­describes her as “a sad, insane old woman with an udder fixation”.

Tributes poured in on the Blackadder Facebook page, where a statement said: “Very saddened to hear that ­Blackadder has lost another amazing actor. RIP Patsy Byrne AKA Nursie AKA Bernard. You and Flashheart can flirt for an eternity now.”

Byrne who was born in Ashford, Kent, studied at drama school before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company. She died on Tuesday. Her other roles ­included the ITV sitcom Watching and the classic police series Z Cars. She also made appearances in Holby City and I, Claudius, and played Mrs Nubbles in the BBC’s 1979 adaption of The Old Curiosity Shop.