Deep down I’m still a Berko boy

Derek Fowlds Heartbeat
Derek Fowlds Heartbeat

From Ashlyns in wartime to fighting crime in Ashfordly, via Basil Brush and Westminister, no one has had a life quite like Derek Fowlds.

And he will return to the town where he grew up next month, for a book signing of his autobiography A Part Worth Playing.

He told the Gazette: “I suppose, deep down, I’m still a Berkhamsted boy.

“I come back every other year to Ashlyns, I still come back to see my friends here, and as my mum lived in Elsmer Road until 1987 my boys know the town very well as we used to play on the moor and the rec.”

Although he was born in London, Derek first came to Berkhamsted at three years old when the Second World War was raging so that he could live in Hertfordshire with his grandmother.

Derek reflected on the moment when he failed his 11-plus and was sent to Ashylns Secondary Modern – a time in his life he recalls with relish.

“I was a cub, a scout, I played football, and I didn’t even see a television until I was 18,” he said.

“I remember waiting for my mum to come home from working at TW Bailey’s bookshop so that I could go to the cinema by myself and sneak in through the toilet windows.”

After his blissful school days Derek admits to being to feeling underwhelmed by the prospect of joining the world of work.

At age 15 he was made an apprentice printer, but after this was interrupted by national service he managed to earn a scholarship at the famous RADA theatrical school

He said: “I was 15 when I left school, and I looked about six. I was apprenticed at the Clunberry Press in town, but I just looked around me and though ‘What am I doing here?’.”

Over six decades on stage and screen – or messing about on set as he puts it – Derek has been best known for three iconic roles.

He was Mr Derek on The Basil Brush Show from 1969-73, beleaguered civil servant Bernard Woolley on both Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, and finally as Sergeant Oscar Blaketon on Heartbeat for 18 years.

“I started at RADA in 1958, with other students in my year including Tom Courtenay and Edward Fox,” he said.

“Writing the book has reminded me again of how lucky I’ve been.”

Derek Fowlds will be at Waterstones on August 13.