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Duty Free star Keith Barron dies aged 83: Tributes to actor also known for roles on Coronation Street and Benidorm

Keith Barron, the star of long-running ITV comedy Duty Free, has died at the age of 83.

Tributes to the actor, who was also well-known for roles on Coronation Street and Benidorm, have rolled in since the news was confirmed.

Former Casualty actress Sunetra Sarker also paid tribute to Keith, her former co-star on the medical series.

Gwen Taylor as Amy and Keith Barron as David in Last Of The Duty Free

She wrote on Twitter: “So sad to hear of dear friend #KeithBarron passing away. One of a kind. Guaranteed laughter. Shall never forget those days. Old school,” alongside a snap of the two on the set of Casualty.

Keith’s start in showbiz was far from glamorous, the Mirror reports – he once said a sadistic teacher forced him to leave school, resulting in him turning to acting after a National Service spell in the RAF.

Keith in Coronation Street

He later joined the same am-dram group as Brian Blessed and landed his first job at a repertory company in Sheffield, earning the princely sum of £1 a week.

His TV debut came in the form of a 1961 episode of The Avengers, followed by roles in the Dennis Potter TV plays Stand Up Nigel Barton and Vote, Vote, Vote For Nigel Barton.

Keith once said of acting: “You take nothing for granted. The best thing about it is being offered another job. It keeps the whole thing alive.”

The Yorkshire-born actor starred in a number of roles in British television but was best known for the sitcom Duty Free, in which he placed David Pearce between 1984 and 1986.

The cast of Duty Free in 1984 – Keith Barron, Gwen Taylor, Joanna Van Gyseghem and Neil Stacy

The comedy drama involves two married couples meeting in Marbella and Keith’s character conducting an affair with the other wife.

It was filmed almost entirely in Leeds despite being set in the sunny Spanish resort.

Before that, his first break came thanks to his role as DS Swift in The Odd Man in the 1960s.

He had met his stage designer wife Mary at the Sheffield Playhouse, where he honed his acting skills.

Keith in My Family

The actor and comic also starred in Dennis Potter’s The Nigel Barton Plays and 1975 Hollywood film The Land That Time Forgot, as well as the BBC’s Doctor Who.

He read a story in the beloved children’s programme Jackanory and appeared in Heartbeat, My Family and Casualty, as various characters.

In 1986 he starred as bully TV boss Kevin Hughes in ITV sitcom Room At The Bottom – a role he played so well that, rumour had it, several television executives were convinced his character was based on them.

Keith played the deputy mayor in Benidorm back in 2009 and had a short reoccurring role in Coronation Street playing George Trench, one of Angela Hawthorne’s ex husbands.

His character appeared in 2007 to attend Angela’s funeral, where he ran in to two more of her exes.

Between 2011 and 2015, Keith took up several bit parts in Doctors, having done the same with BBC1’s Casualty between 2008 and 2013.

Sherrie Hewson and Keith Barron, who has died aged 83

He continued to act up until last year, when he appeared as Arthur Banks in DCI Banks, the long-running detective drama.

Keith turned 83 on August 8 2017.

A statement from his agent confirmed the sad news, saying: “He had a long and varied career which included The Nigel Barton Plays by Dennis Potter of which he was immensely proud, a Hollywood film The Land That Time Forgot, the television series Take Me Home, written by Tony Marchant and three series of Duty Free, the Yorkshire Television classic sitcom written by Eric Chappell in which he played David Pearce.

“He is survived by his wife Mary to whom he was married for 58 years and his son, Jamie, also an actor.”

Tributes to the late actor have been rolling in since the tragic news was confirmed.

Chairman of Elstree Studios Morris Bright said on Twitter: “Deeply saddened at passing of the great actor Keith Barron.

“He was a good friend of the industry and of @ElstreeStudios. We knew he had been unwell. Last met him at Elstree in 2009. A true gentleman.”

One upset fan wrote: “Sorry to hear this. Keith Barron was a fantastic actor and elevated whatever he was in be it Duty Free or The Land That Time Forgot. Equally at home with drama or comedy and a big list of film and TV credits. A sad loss.”

Another pointed out: “I was going to say how much I loved the show [Duty Free], but then we all did. A great British love affair. Millions of us gleefully followed it from start to finish. And Barron was a delight in it. RIP Keith.”

And the broadcaster Matthew Sweet tweeted: “I loved the cadences of Keith Barron’s voice: smooth and authoritative, but quick to show steel or self-pity when required. An underrated actor.”

Many of Keith’s fans remember his distinctive voice in the 1975 public service announcement Grain Drain, which pointed out the dangers of letting children play near unguarded grain pits.

“RIP Keith Barron – provided the voice over to one of the most terrifying of all Public Information Films,” reflected one viewer.

And another added: “RIP Keith Barron, who had a fair claim to being the king of 1970s Public Information Films. That stern voice was the soundtrack of many a daymare.”

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