Bernard Cribbins: Another good man who will be missed

Peter Rhodes on a much-loved star, a shortage of effects and how a sibling can be an only child.

 A good man gone – Bernard Cribbins
A good man gone – Bernard Cribbins

Peter Rhodes on a much-loved star, a shortage of effects and how a sibling can be an only child.

Our changing language. I keep seeing headlines about how the drought may “impact” us. These days, no matter what the issue, we are all impacted. No-one is simply affected any more.

Likewise, in today's febrile reporting I perceive an acute drought of effects. In fact, there are hardly any effects any more. They have all become “knock-on effects.”

Bernard Cribbins, who narrated The Wombles and starred in the original version of The Railway Children, has died aged 93. I bet he'll be missed in the pretty North Yorkshire fishing village of Staithes which was the setting for his children's series, Old Jack's Boat. We visited Staithes eight years ago. Without exception, the folk we chatted to about Cribbins spoke fondly of a man who, unlike some celebrities, made time to chat to the locals and sign endless photographs. They cherished him. Another good man gone.

Let's face it, Meghan Markle is never going to be as popular as Bernard Cribbins. Yet in her latest spat, she deserves some sympathy. The Duchess of Sussex stands accused of lying by telling Oprah Winfrey that she was an only child. And if she'd actually said “I was an only child” then Markle would deserve condemnation. But she didn't.

The Duchess's exact words were that she “grew up as an only child”. There must be millions of children with siblings who know exactly what she means. The child born several years before its siblings arrive may experience life as an only child. So may the late child, born ten years or more after the last baby. And there are many children, isolated in the middle of families or simply less loved than the other kids, who know what it is to “grow up as an only child,” solitary sufferers in a house full of children.

I was tidying my files the other day and came across an item from this column 10 years ago. It seems timely today as Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss tour the country, unveiling their bulging hampers of solemn pledges to build a better Britain. From July 2012: “A reader takes up the thread of humorous slogans on honey wagons, tankers used by sewage contractors. From his large collection I had to smile at the tanker whose rear end declared: 'Another load of politicians’ promises'.”

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