By Laura Harding and Tom Horton, PA
Johnny Vegas has remembered his Murder On The Blackpool Express co-star Una Stubbs as “an absolute light” following her death at the age of 84.
The actress, best known for roles in the film Summer Holiday, the BBC sitcoms Till Death Us Do Part and In Sickness And In Health, and as Mrs Hudson in Sherlock, died on Thursday in Edinburgh surrounded by her family.
One of her last roles was as Peggy in the 2017 TV film Murder on the Blackpool Express opposite Vegas, Sian Gibson, Sheila Reid and Nina Wadia.
“She didn’t pretend to be one thing for the public and another off camera”
Actor and comedian Johnny Vegas, who starred alongside Una Stubbs in Murder on the Blackpool Express, pays tribute to the actor who died age 84. https://t.co/tdAQjPk82I pic.twitter.com/AA9QbvMxu3
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) August 13, 2021
Vegas told BBC Breakfast: “She had a massive impact in such a short space of time and was just the loveliest actor to work with.
“She was an absolute light, an absolute joy. And probably in that very special category of on paper I wouldn’t have expected us to be pals on set, but she had time for everyone, she loved everyone, she was an absolute joy.
“A natural instinct for comedy and one of those people when she spoke to you she had a genuine interest.
“When she asked questions she was interested in you, so you had all this fun on set and then all these wonderful conversations off set.
“The fact that all of us that worked with her were contacting each other going things like ‘Something wonderful has gone’.”
Sir Cliff Richard, who starred opposite Stubbs in Summer Holiday, previously paid tribute, saying: “She was the most exciting person to be with, she was funny, she could really do just about anything – act, dance, she could even sing.”
“Anyway, she has left us and all I want to say is I personally will miss her greatly and I know that our industry on the whole will also miss her greatly.
“Her talent, her joy, everything that she was will remain with us all. While we remember her, she will still be with us.”
Stubbs, who was born in Hertfordshire in 1937, had a career in film, television and theatre spanning decades, including a recent role as Mrs Hudson in the BBC’s Sherlock opposite Benedict Cumberbatch.
A statement from her family said: “Mum passed away quietly today with her family around her, in Edinburgh. We ask for privacy and understanding at this most difficult and sad of times.”
Her agent Rebecca Blond said: “We are desperately sad to have lost not only a wonderful actress, whose screen and stage career, spanning over 50 years, was so extraordinarily varied, from Till Death Us Do Part to Sherlock, as well as memorable performances in the West End, at the Old Vic, Donmar Warehouse, Sheffield Crucible and National Theatre, but also a wickedly funny, elegant, stylish, graceful, gracious and kind and constant friend.
“She was also a highly respected and exhibited artist. We will miss her enormously and remember her always.”
Other well-known television roles included Aunt Sally in Worzel Gummidge and Miss Bat in The Worst Witch, as well as a role in the Fawlty Towers episode The Anniversary.
She first appeared on screen in the 1950s in series such as Benny Hill and Rush Hour.
After her turn as Sandy in Summer Holiday, she appeared in Sir Cliff’s next film Wonderful Life and later in his BBC TV series It’s Cliff Richard!
For several years, she was a team captain in the weekly game show Give Us A Clue in the 1980s and also made appearances in Heartbeat, Benidorm, Victoria Wood’s We’d Quite Like To Apologise, The Catherine Tate Show and Agatha Christie’s Marple.
She also played Caroline Bishop in the BBC soap EastEnders and more recently appeared in The Durrells, Call The Midwife and Midsomer Murders.
In addition to her work as an actress, Stubbs was also a keen amateur painter who had her work displayed at the Royal Academy in London.
Stubbs was married to actor Peter Gilmore from 1958-1969, with whom she adopted son Jason, and then married Nicky Henson in 1969, before they split in 1975.
The couple had two sons, Joe and Christian, both of whom are composers.
Christian wrote on Twitter: “Some of you may have known her as Rita, as Sally as Bat or Hudson but to my two brothers and I she was known as Mum.
Some of you may have known her as Rita, as Sally as Bat or Hudson but to my two brothers and I she was known as Mum. Thanks for everything Mum RIP. pic.twitter.com/78UTihny8Z
— Christian Henson (@chensonmusic) August 12, 2021
“Thanks for everything Mum RIP.”
Sherlock co-star Cumberbatch labelled Stubbs “a wonderful, talented, stylish, gentle, joyous and honest friend”.
In a statement to the PA news agency, he added: “A joy to work with, to laugh with and to make laugh. So humble and yet so damn good.
“She lit up the room and will be sorely missed by all who were lucky enough to know her, but she will be remembered forever with fondness and love.”