The actor was best known for his role as ‘Boycie’ in BBC One sitcom Only Fools and Horses.
“Such sad news. John was such a lovely man, a fine actor and a friend for over forty years. Hard to think of the world without him. Condolences to his family at this incredibly sad time” – Sir David Jason, Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter in Only Fools & Horses
John Challis passed away peacefully in his sleep aged 79 his family earlier today announced.
He, of course, is best remembered as Terrance Aubrey “Boycie” Boyce in Only Fools and Horses, running on BBC One from 1981 to 2003 and its spin-off The Green Green Grass that centred around ‘Boycie’ and his family from 2005-2009.
And while there was much fame and success from that comedy character John never forgot the other programmes that had been part of his career from LWT’s war drama Wish Me Luck, ATV’s period daytime soap The Cedar Tree and BBC One police saga Dixon of Dock Green. He played tough guys in Doctor Who (BBC) and in Thames TV’s The Sweeney. But it was comedy he enjoyed most, noting once that the sound of people laughing from his performance made it worthwhile.
A member of the Royal Shakespeare Company since the 1960s he was appearing in a matinee of Twelfth Night while England was winning the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley. He returned to Shakespeare on stage in the 1990s, proving his TV persona had no effect on audiences believing in his more dramatic cultured roles. There were many other theatre and even big-screen appearances.
“My condolences to John Challis’s family and friends. How brave he was. He gave laughter and happiness to so many. RIP John” – Annette Badland
“Judy and I are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of John Challis. He will be very much missed. He left a lasting legacy in our business which will be remembered for many decades to come! Viva Boycie!” – Jeffrey Holland, Hi-de-Hi
“Marlene without Boycie-it’s unthinkable. John Challis was my partner on screen and stage for 36 years and my beloved friend. R.I.P. darling John. I will miss you every day.” – Sue Holderness, Marlene in Only Fools & Horses
John had several stints in Granada Television’s Coronation Street between 1967 and 1977 (with two different roles) as well as a stint in 1971 as a ‘dubious photographer’ Jim Wright in ATV’s Crossroads – having learned in 2015 his motel moments were ‘wiped’ he asked the Crossroads Fan Club, “Can you find some evidence I was in Crossroads, the wife doesn’t believe I was ever in it!” Showing his sense of humour wasn’t just confined to the sitcom sets of Open All Hours or Benidorm. It also showed the kind of man he was, despite massive success with Boycie, he still had time for all the other programme’s he’d featured in fans and more so was more than happy to be associated with them, even cheap daytime soap operas.
He reunited in 2016 with his Benidorm co-star Sherrie Hewson in a one-off special remake of Are You Being Served? on BBC One where they recreated the roles of Mrs Slocombe and Captain Peacock.
“Dear John Challis you were a joy to work with, and I shall never forget our great times together RIP. Lots of love Carol and all of the family Tim and Jo xxxx” – Tim Healy, Benidorm co-star
In recent years he had proved to be a massive star in Serbia leading to a special DVD release earlier this year that saw John travel to Belgrade to find out why, in documentary travelogue Boycie In Belgrade, the character and the Only Fools and Horses sitcom is such a hit with viewers in the country. In 2019 he backed UKTV’s campaign to get some sort of lasting memorial at the exterior site of Only Fools and Horses tower block.
He cancelled a 30-date speaking tour earlier this month after only one appearance due to failing health.
“Shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Wonderful John Challis such a fabulous man . Loved by the Nation. Condolences to his family and loved ones.” – Vickyi Michelle. Allo Allo
In a statement the Challis family said:
“It is with heavy hearts that we bring you such sad news. Our dear friend and yours, John Challis, has died peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer.
“He will always be loved for being ‘Boycie’ and leaves a great legacy of work that will continue to brings pleasure and smiles for many years to come.
“…be assured that in the future there will be an occasion to celebrate John’s life – when everyone will be welcome to come along.”
The family have asked rather than flowers, that any donations in his memory should be made to his chosen animal charities:
“No words you express tonight the loss of my beautiful friend John Challis so lucky to have worked with him and to call him my friend . Love you John xx love to Carol” – Sherrie Hewson, co-star in Benidorm