LOCAL tributes have been paid to legendary radio and TV presenter Nicholas Parsons who died on Tuesday having made one of his last public appearances in the New Forest where he performed from a wheelchair.
Widely hailed as one of the greats of British broadcasting and an icon in the world of comedy, Nicholas appeared in mid-October last year at New Milton’s Forest Arts to share details of his life in the celebrity spotlight.
Event organiser Ian Woolley, of Quiz Britain Productions, told the A&T: “Nicholas was originally due to appear at Forest Arts in early September but three shows into his Edinburgh Fringe one man show, he had a fall on a train and was subsequently hospitalised, which meant cancelling the rest of his show.”
After being released from hospital, Nicholas’s show at Forest Arts had to be postponed and considering his weak state of health, it seemed unlikely that he would be able to go ahead at a later date.
Ian said: “We were a little worried about reorganising a date but Nicholas was very keen to do it – as he did not want to let people down. He was a gentleman and a true performer to the end.
“He did the sell-out show from his wheelchair and wife Annie came along. He was on top form with his anecdotes and funny tales about his life.
“One funny story was the fact that when he narrated the Rocky Horror Story on stage, he suggested appearing at the end of the show in Basque and suspenders which he did to roars of laughter.
“What really struck me about him was that as well as being a lovely man he was very, very astute – he was absolutely on the ball with everything. His mind was sharp but sadly at 96, it was his body that had grown old.”
Nicholas, who was host of BBC Radio 4’s Just a Minute since its inception in 1967, presented his final programme on 23rd September last year.
During his career he appeared on stage, as part of a comedy duo and starred in many TV shows. He presented Sale of the Century on ITV from 1971 to 1983, which drew a peak audience of 21-million.
Made a CBE in 2004, during his visit to New Milton Nicholas shared stories about his childhood, his training as an engineer and following his dream of becoming a performer.
Nicholas apologised for sitting during the show, telling the audience: “I usually stand but just at the moment, I can’t really do that.”
During his incredible career he spent a decade in a comedy partnership with Arthur Haynes, and also worked for three years with Benny Hill. He appeared in a series of Doctor Who and starred in many West End plays.
The Forest Arts show was not the first time Nicholas has appeared locally. In 2017 he was one of the star celebrities who appeared at a Quizfest UK event at Beaulieu Motor Museum which was also organised by Ian Woolley.
Ian recalls: “Nicholas was asked to be the quiz compere of our professional quiz with lots of Chasers and Eggheads taking part along with the serious quizzers from around the UK.
“At the end he co-presented the awards along with Christopher Biggins – and interestingly he offered us the questions from Sale of the Century which he was proud to have collected and kept.”
Nicholas was also a past-president of the Lord’s Taverners charity and worked for the NSPCC and Silverline of which he was an ambassador.