Bill Maynard – best known as Claude Greengrass in ITV’s period drama Heartbeat -has died aged 89.
Born Walter Frederick George Williams on the 8th of October 1928 he picked the stage-name Bill Maynard after seeing a billboard advert for Maynard’s Wine Gums. His first venture into showbiz was at the age of eight when he appeared on stage at a pub. In 1951 he joined the Butlins Holiday Camp entertainment team, working alongside comedian Terry Scott. The pair would later reunite for a television comedy series.
The actor and presenter first appeared on television in September 1953, appearing on BBC Television’s Face The Music variety series. Appearing on bandleader Henry Hall’s series as a stand-up comedian, it began a broadcasting career which would take in everything from presenting live television to sitcom and drama. With the beeb he fronted Great Scott, its Maynard which lead to bosses at a soon-to-launch ITV station luring him over ‘to the other side’.
In 1959 he was one of the founding personalities on Tyne Tees Television, appearing in the first live programme, The Big Show, and many others during the 1960s followed for the ITV North East station including his own – The Bill Maynard Show which ran for three series.
He made several appearances in Rank’s Carry On movie franchise before taking the lead role in 1970s sitcom Oh No, It’s Selwyn Froggitt! for Yorkshire Television. The series saw Maynard as an all-round public nuisance, fated with incidents which made his life one long disaster. In the early 80s, he returned to Yorkshire Television to again take the lead as company boss Fred Moffatt in the sitcom The Gaffer. In the 1970s he also moved into serial as music agent Micky Malone in Granada’s Coronation Street. Other serious roles included in drama Kisses at Fifty.
However, it would be as Claude Greengrass, the lovable old rogue in Yorkshire Television’s 1960s based drama Heartbeat that Bill would become best known for. Set in the village of Aidensfield, and focusing on its police service, Maynard appeared in over 150 episodes and later featured in the shows spin-off hospital saga, The Royal. Other roles included in BBC One sitcom In Sickness and In Health and Southern Television’s childrens series Worzel Gummidge.
Bobby Knutt and Bill Maynard in a scene from YTV’s Heartbeat, a staple part of Sunday night ITV viewing in the 1990s.
There has also been music along the way including landing fourth in the UK heat of the 1957 Eurovision Song Contest, singles released such as Pheasant Pluckers’ Son and to mark his 60th anniversary since his television debut he released a cover of What A Wonderful World in September 2013.
In February last year, he made a final acting appearance in BBC One drama The Moorside, as bad-tempered pensioner Cecil, ‘to prove he was still alive’ following previous false reports he had passed away. It is also noted in late 2017 he featured as a contestant on BBC One game show Pointless Celebrities, which is yet to be broadcast.
It was announced today by his daughter-in-law Jacqueline Reddin that he had died in hospital in Leicestershire following a recent fall from a mobility scooter in which he’d broken his hip. He leaves a daughter and a son, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.