24 November 2017
Chris Dodd remembers Likely Lad and keen rower Rodney Bewes.
Rodney Bewes, the Yorkshire-born actor who has died aged 79, is mostly known for his role as Bob Ferris, the well-intentioned and socially aspiring half of The Likely Lads, a BBC television series also starring James Bolam that regularly attracted 27 million viewers – that’s 27 million – at its 1960s peak.
Having studied at (and been kicked out of) the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Bewes followed The Likely Lads with a successful if idiosyncratic career of film parts, including opposite his friend Tom Courtney in Billy Liar, stage farces and one-man shows which he wrote himself or adapted from comic classics such as George and Weedon Grossmith’s Diary of a Nobody.
Rodney was also a stalwart of London Rowing Club and the gig club at Cadgwith Cove in Cornwall. He rowed and coxed at London, and until recently spent the five days of Henley regatta, from first to last race, in his skiff Frank on the booms wearing his LRC cap and fortified by suitable libations to cheer on his club’s crews. At the 1989 regatta celebrating 150 years of Henley Royal, Rodney coxed London’s 12-oar over the course, rowed by a dozen former captains of the club founded in 1856, and he wrote about it in Regatta (“I steered the 12-oar”). In 1991, he rescued the weathervane in the form of a sculpture of an oarsman that had fallen off LRC’s flagpole.
Rodney was a lover of the traditions and environs of the Thames, and he won the Chaplin Prize for best restoration and maintenance of Frank and his dinghy Maurice at Thames Traditional Boat Rally. “For the love of Frank, the Thames skiff” appeared in July 1994’s Regatta.
In the 1990s, Rodney produced his own one-man show of Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, staged with Frank and a stuffed toy playing the part of the dog Montmorency. His comic timing was superb and earned him a performance before the Queen at the opening of the River & Rowing Museum at Henley in 1998 and an appearance at the Kenton Theatre in Henley and at London RC in 1993. He took his show on a nation-wide tour and appeared at the Edinburgh festival fringe. In 2015, Rodney gave an autobiographical show, An Audience with Rodney Bewes… Who?, at Edinburgh. His memoir in book form was A Likely Story (2005).
The Guardian’s obituary of thespian Rodney can be found here.
Rodney Bewes, actor, writer and producer, born on 27 November 1937; died on 21 November 2017.