Tributes have been paid to Minder star George Cole who made his stage debut as a youngster in Blackpool.
Cole died yesterday in hospital with his family at his side, aged 90.
Cole, who was adopted as a baby and grew up in a council flat in Morden, south London, started performing music hall routines on stage as a child with his parents who were both amateur musicians.
He began acting when he left school aged 14 and got a job as an understudy in a musical in Blackpool, sharing his dressing room with the animal extras – two goats and six pigeons.
He first found fame in the 1950s playing wheeler-dealer Flash Harry in the St Trinian’s films, but will be best remembered for his part playing another cockney wideboy decades later.
His portrayal of camel-coated, cigar-puffing used car salesman Arthur Daley entertained viewers for more than 10 years with millions tuning in to watch him and Dennis Waterman’s Terry McCann – the long-suffering minder of the title.
Cole’s character, an ambitious but feckless small-time crook, spent each episode dreaming up another get-rich-quick scheme while avoiding the attentions of the police – in the form of Patrick Malahide’s Mr Chisolm - and the never seen but often mentioned ‘er indoors.
Cole was made an OBE in 1992 and was married twice.