Michael Jayston: Only Fools and Horses actor has sadly died aged 88

Jayston acted in a number of iconic shows including Doctor Who and Emmerdale.

Michael Jayston dies
© Michael Ochs Archives / GETTYIAMGES
Michael Jayston dies

Only Fools and Horses first aired 43 years ago, but it remains a favourite for many Brits who grew up watching the iconic show. The first ever episode, Big Brother, came out on 8 September 1981 and the series went on to become a massive success. Written by comedy genius John Sullivan and starring the likes of David Jason, who played Del Boy, and Nicholas Lyndhurst, who played Rodney, the show had people chuckling all over the UK.

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However, in sad news, another actor from the series has passed away. Michael Jayston, who played Rachel ‘Raquel’ Turner’s father, has died at age 88. This comes shortly after the death of Ian Lavender, the last of the Dad’s Army cast, who passed away on Friday 2 February. Let’s take a look into Jayston’s varied career and at the messages of support issued after his passing.

Michael Jayston’s career

Jayston will be remembered for various TV roles he held over the years. In Only Fools and Horses, he played the antiques dealer James whose daughter Raquel was in a long-term relationship with lead character Del. At some point, the inevitable happens: James is invited over for dinner at Del’s which turns into quite the calamity. However, there is a silver lining as James’s keen eye identifies an old pocket watch in the garage which turns out to be worth a fortune - the family auction it and become millionaires.

Over the course of his career, Jayston also bagged TV roles in Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice and King Lear. He appeared in the British classic Doctor Who as Valeyard, a manifestation of the benevolent Doctor’s darker side. That’s not all: Jayston also popped up in Emmerdale from 2007-2008, playing Nicola King’s husband. Emmerdale’s cast has grown and grown over the years, and some of its stars have amassed a lot of wealth: this recently deceased soap actress left £375k in her will. There have been no announcements so far about what Jayston has left behind, but there have been many kind words shared about the actor.

Kind words about Jayston

Jayston’s agent announced that he had passed after a ‘short illness’. M&M Famous Faces issued a statement on Monday 5 February on behalf of his family. It said:

It is with great sadness, that I have been asked by his family to share the news, Michael Jayston sadly passed away this morning after a short illness.
Those who knew Michael will know he was full of love, laughs and happiness. He adored meeting his fans all over the world. His family and friends would appreciate privacy at this time.

His old colleague Bonnie Langford posted a snap of the pair together on X:

Just over a week ago I was with this wonderful man#michaeljayston We laughed about when this pic was taken and all the joy and jokes we’d shared on ⁦@bbcdoctorwho⁩. So sad he’s gone. So glad he was here.

Jayston is not the first Emmerdale actor to have passed away in the last month: the iconic Georgina Hale died in January at 80 years old.

Michael Jayston was married three times

Jayston's personal life, particularly his longstanding marriage to Ann Smithson, was a testament to his character off-screen. The couple enjoyed over 40 years of marriage, having wed in 1979. Unlike Jayston, Ann Smithson never worked in the entertainment industry, and little is publicly known about her, reflecting a life maintained away from the spotlight.

Michael Jayson's journey through life also included his roles as a father to five children who, unlike their father, have chosen paths away from the public eye. With Ann, her welcomed a son and a daughter. With his second wife, he had two sons and they adopted a daughter from Vietnam. This aspect of his life highlights a stark contrast between his public persona and private family life, underscoring the personal legacy he leaves behind alongside his cinematic contributions.

Prior to his marriage with Ann Smithson, Jayston was married to actress Lynn Farleigh. The two wed in 1965 before divorcing in 1970. Contrary to Ann Smithson, Farleigh was also part of the entertainment industry and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company soon after their seperation. She enjoyed a long lasting career in theatre. After her marriage to Jayston, Lynn Farleigh married actor John Woodvine in 1996. The two are still married.

Though Lynn Farleigh was his first wife, Ann Smithson wasn't the second. That title belongs to Heather Sneddon. Not much is known about the woman. The two were married between 1971 and 1977.

His colleague and friend, Colin Baker, a fellow Doctor Who actor, paid tribute to Jayston, remembers him as 'warm, witty, clever naughty and a very fine actor & wonderful man.' This sentiment captures the essence of how Jayston will be remembered by those who knew him and admired his work.

Read more:

⋙ Harry Potter: Dumbledore actor Sir Michael Gambon has died aged 82, cause of death revealed

⋙ Andre Braugher: Brooklyn Nine-Nine star dies aged 61, his cause of death revealed

⋙ Annie Nightingale passes away at 83: Here’s what we know

Sources used:

BBC: Only Fools and Horses

Sky News: Only Fools and Horses actor Michael Jayston dies after 'short illness'

Express: Only Fools and Horses and EastEnders actor Michael Jayston dies after 'short illness'

The Sun: LOVE OF HIS LIFE Who is Michael Jayston’s wife and how many times was he married?

The Telegraph: Michael Jayston, gentle-voiced actor whose roles ranged from the doomed Tsar to an MI6 spy – obituary

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