Who we lost in 2020

Last Updated on 9th November 2021 by Mike@bitaboutbritain

Which celebrities did Britain say goodbye to in 2020? It is a depressingly long list, but a reminder of some wonderful people, and of our recent past.  Most – though certainly not all – of these individuals achieved great things in their lives, or brought pleasure to others; thank you, and RIP to them.  One individual will always be despised.  As you glance through, you may wonder who was born in 2020 that will go on to entertain, or achieve something notable, in the years to come. Some of us may never know!

Celebrity deaths 2020CLICK or TAP on a name to reveal a bit about the person.

January

Derek Fowlds   

Born: 02/09/1937, Wandsworth, London   Died: 17/01/2020, Bath, Somerset
Derek Fowlds was an actor, probably best-known for his roles in TV’s ‘Basil Brush’, the comedies ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’, and the series set in 1960s Yorkshire, ‘Heartbeat’.

Peter Hobday

Born: 16/02/1937, Dudley, West Midlands   Died: 18/01/2020
Journalist and presenter, Peter Hobday was best known for presenting Radio 4’s Today programme alongside Brian Redhead and John Timpson, as well as ‘The Money Programme’, ‘Newsnight’ and ‘World at One’.  His sacking by the BBC in 1996 upset his many fans.

Terry Jones

Born: 01/02/1942, Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire   Died: 21/01/2020, Highgate, London
Terry Jones was a writer, poet, performer, comedian and lover of medieval history, but probably best known for being one of the six founders of ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’.

Paul Farnes

Born: 16/07/1918, Boscombe, Dorset   Died 28/01/2020, Chichester, West Sussex
Paul Caswell Powe Farnes was an RAF officer, fighter pilot and the last surviving ace of the Battle of Britain.

Nicholas Parsons

Born: 10/10/1923, Grantham, Lincolnshire   Died: 28/01/2020, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire
Nicholas Parsons was an actor, but best known as a radio and TV presenter, most notably of Radio 4’s ‘Just a Minute’ – incredibly from 1967 to 2019 – and of TV’s ‘Sale of the Century’ (live from Norwich) in the 1970s and ’80s.

February

Caroline Flack

Born: 09/11/1979, Enfield, Middlesex   Died: 15/02/2020, Stoke Newington, London
Caroline Louise Flack was a presenter/host of various reality TV shows, including ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’, ‘The Xtra Factor’, ‘X Factor’ and ‘Love Island’.  In 2014, she won the 12th series of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.  Tragically, faced with allegations that she had assaulted her boyfriend, Caroline Flack took her own life. Afterwards, many criticised the pressure of reality TV and the harassment some suffer from the press and on social media.

March

Roy Hudd

Born 16/05/1936, Croydon, Surrey   Died: 15/03/2020, London
It is hard to pigeon-hole Roy Hudd – comedian, author, satirist, actor and leading authority on British music-hall.  On BBC Radio 2, he presented ‘The News Huddlines’, which ran from 1975 to 2001.

Betty Williams

Born: 22/05/1943, Belfast, Northern Ireland   Died, 17/03/2020, also in Belfast
Elizabeth Williams was an activist, co-founder of the Community of Peace People movement, dedicated to finding a peaceful resolution to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976.

Julie Felix

Born: 14/06/1938, Santa Barbara, California, USA   Died: 22/03/2020, Chorleywood, Hertfordshire
Julie Ann Felix was an American, British-based, folk musician.  She rose to fame through her regular appearances on the ‘Frost Report’ in the 1960s, alongside the likes of Ronnie Barker, John Cleese, Ronnie Corbett and David Frost, and was still performing until shortly before her death.

April

Eddie Large

Born: 25/06/1941, Glasgow   Died: 02/04/2020, Bristol
Edward Hugh McGinnis, stage name Eddie Large, was one half of the comic double act ‘Little and Large’, with Syd Little (Cyril Mead).  The pair shot to fame after winning the TV talent show ‘Opportunity Knocks’ in 1971, but hadn’t performed together in recent years due to Eddie’s poor health.  He died having allegedly caught the coronavirus in hospital.

Honor Blackman

Born: 22/08/1925, Plaistow, London   Died: 05/04/2020, Lewes, East Sussex
Honor Blackman was an actress perhaps best known for her role as Cathy Gale in the 1960s TV espionage series, ‘The Avengers’, and then as Pussy Galore in the James Bond movie ‘Goldfinger’.

Margaret Burbidge

Born: 12/08/1919, Stockport, Cheshire   Died: 05/04/2020, San Francisco, California, USA
Astrophysicist Eleanor Margaret Burbidge “was the principal author of a watershed scientific paper in 1957 that set out the evidence for chemical elements having been formed inside stars. In essence, the work of her and her collaborators proved that the iron in our blood, the oxygen in our lungs, the calcium in our bones, even the carbon in our DNA was made in the hearts of massive stars and then exploded back into space billions of years ago.” [From her obituary in The Guardian].

Peter Bonetti 

Born: 27/09/1941, Putney, London   Died: 12/04/2020
Footballer Peter Bonetti was a goalkeeper known as ‘the Cat’, most notably with Chelsea in the 1970s and also for the England national team.

Tim Brooke-Taylor

Born: 17/07/1940, Buxton, Derbyshire   Died: 12/04/2020, Cookham, Berkshire
Tim Brooke-Taylor emerged as one of the comedy talents from the Cambridge University Footlights Club in the 1960s, alongside John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden.  He is perhaps best remembered as one of ‘The Goodies’ and for the long-running radio programme, ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’.  He was a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stirling  Moss

Born: 17/09/1929, West Kensington, London   Died: 12/04/2020, Mayfair, London
Sir Stirling Craufurd Moss was a Formula 1 racing driver in the 1950s and early 1960s, winning 16 Grands Prix – but he never won the World Championship. Widely admired by other drivers, he has been described as “the greatest driver never to win the World Championship”.

Norman Hunter

Born: 29/10/1943, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear    Died: 17/04/2020
Footballer Norman Hunter had a long playing career, mainly with Leeds United in the 1960s and ’70s, as well as playing for the England national team.  Known as ‘Bites yer legs’, he died of COVID-19.

Jill Gascoine

Born: 11/04/1937, Lambeth, London    Died: 28/04/2020, Los Angeles, California, USA
Actress Jill Viola Gascoine began her career in theatre, moving over to TV where she appeared in various dramas, including the highly popular ‘Onedin Line’ in the 1970s.  In the 1980s, she became the first woman to play a leading role in a police drama, when she starred as Detective Inspector Maggie Forbes in ‘The Gentle Touch’.  She continued in the spin-off ‘CATS Eyes’ until 1987.  In the 1990s, she and her husband, actor Alfred Molina, moved to the USA and she embarked on a second career as a novelist.

Trevor Cherry

Born: 23/02/1948, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire   Died: 29/04/2020
Trevor Cherry was a footballer who mainly played with Leeds United in the 1970s and went on to be player-manager with Bradford in the 1980s, including at the time of the fire at the ground in 1985 that killed 56 people.  He also played for England, once captaining the side.

May

Dave Greenfield 

Born: 29/03/1949, Brighton   Died: 03/05/2020
David Paul Greenfield was keyboard player with The Stranglers from 1975 until his death.  His flowing style helped give the band their unique sound and he wrote their biggest hit, ‘Golden Brown’.  He died after testing positive for Covid-19.

Astrid Kirchherr

Born: 20/05/1938, Hamburg, Germany   Died: 12/05/2020, also in Hamburg
Astrid Kirchherr was a German photographer and artist.  She has been included in this list by ABAB because she befriended five lads from Liverpool (John, Paul, George, Pete and Stu) in her native Hamburg and took some memorable photographs of them.

Philip May

Born: 09/11/1944, Dartford, Kent   Died: 15/05/2020, King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Not to be confused with the husband of ex-prime minister Theresa, Phil May (born Philip Dennis Arthur Wadey) was a founding member and vocalist with the band The Pretty Things, who played their last concert in 2018, with guest appearances by David Gilmour and Van Morrison.

June

Keith Tippett

Born: 25/08/1947, Bristol   Died: 14/06/2020
Keith Graham Tippetts was a well-known jazz pianist, composer and bandleader, master of improvisation and active until just before his death.  He was married to singer Julie Driscoll.

Vera Lynn

Born: 20/03/1917, East Ham, London   Died: 18/06/2020, Ditchling, East Sussex
Vera Lynn was a much-loved singer who rose to fame during the Second World War, hosting her own radio show, ‘Sincerely Yours’, becoming known as ‘the forces sweetheart’ and entertaining troops in Egypt, India and Burma.  She is particularly known for the songs ‘We’ll Meet Again’, ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ and ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’. When she died, tributes poured in, including from the Royal Family, politicians and admirers such as Katherine Jenkins and Paul McCartney.  She was given a military funeral and a Battle of Britain Spitfire flew overhead.

Ian Holm

Born: 12/09/1931, Goodmayes, Essex   Died: 19/06/2020, London
Ian Holm Cuthbert was a classic and versatile stage and screen actor whose impressive film credits included ‘Alien’, ‘Chariots of Fire’, ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’.

July

Jack Charlton

Born: 08/05/1935, Ashington, Northumberland   Died: 10/07/2020
John ‘Jack’ Charlton was a mid-field footballer who famously and exclusively played for Leeds United from 1952-73, and for England. With his brother, Bobby, he was a member of the 1966 England World Cup team.  He was affectionately known as ‘Giraffe’ (for his height and heading ability) and went on to a career in football management, including 10 years with the Irish national team.

Peter Green

Born: 29/10/1946, Bethnal Green, London   Died: 25/07/2020, Canvey Island, Essex
Guitarist and songwriter Peter Allen Greenbaum was most famously the founder of Fleetwood Mac, leaving in 1970, whose compositions included Black Magic Woman and Albatross.

Olivia de Havilland

Born: 01/07/1916, Tokyo, Japan   Died: 26/07/2020, Paris, France
An actress born to British parents, Dame Olivia de Havilland, along with her sister Joan Fontaine, was a star of Hollywood’s golden age, appearing alongside Errol Flynn, including in ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ (1938). She is often particularly remembered for playing the part of Melanie in the epic ‘Gone with The Wind’ (1939). She won two Oscars and retired from acting in 1988.

Alan Parker

Born: 14/02/1944, Islington, London   Died: 31/07/2020, London
Alan Parker was a screenwriter and film director whose very varied credits included ‘Bugsy Malone’, ‘Midnight Express’, ‘Pink Floyd – The Wall’, ‘Mississippi Burning’, ‘The Commitments’, ‘Evita’ and ‘Angela’s Ashes’.

August

John Hume

Born: 18/01/1937, Londonderry, Northern Ireland   Died: 03/08/2020, also in Londonderry
John Hume was a prominent Irish nationalist politician, a founder of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in Northern Ireland, one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace process that led to an ending of the Troubles with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and co-recipient of that year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Wayne Fontana

Born: 28/10/1945, Levenshulme, Manchester   Died: 06/08/2020, Stockport, Cheshire
Singer Glyn Geoffrey Ellis, stage name Wayne Fontana, was part of the 1960s beat scene, with his group The Mindbenders.  Their biggest hit was ‘Game of Love’ in 1965, but Wayne left the band and his musical career petered out, sadly, in the 1970s. The Mindbenders included a young Eric Stuart on guitar, who went on to greater success with 10CC.

Martin Birch

Born: 27/12/1948, Woking, Surrey   Died: 09/08/2020
Martin Birch, music engineer and producer, was best known for his work with heavy-metal bands such as Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Whitesnake.

Julian Bream

Born: 15/07/1933, Battersea, London   Died: 14/08/2020, Donhead St Andrew, Wiltshire
Julian Alexander Bream was one of Britain’s few renowned classical guitarists and lute players, with an international reputation and a career that spanned more than 50 years.

Ben Cross

Born: 16/12/1947, London   Died: 18/08/2020, Vienna, Austria
Harry Bernard Cross was a stage and screen actor, probably mostly remembered for the part of Olympic athlete Harold Abrahams in the Oscar-winning film ‘Chariots of Fire’ (1981).

September

Diana Rigg

Born: 20/07/1938, Doncaster, West Yorkshire   Died: 10/09/2020, London
Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg was a classical actress, also famous for starring as Emma Peel in TV’s ‘The Avengers’ (1965–1968), Teresa Draco di Vicenzo in the James Bond movie ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969) and Olenna Tyrell in the HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’ (2013–2017).

Terence Conran

Born: 04/10/1931, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey   Died: 12/09/2020, Kintbury, Berkshire
Terence Orby Conran was a high-profile, revolutionary, designer, founder of Habitat and one of the founders of the Design Museum.

Frank Windsor

Born: 12/07/1928, Walsall, Staffordshire   Died: 30/09/2020, London
Frank Windsor Higgins seemed to spend most of his acting career playing policemen, perhaps most famously DS John Watt in ‘Z-Cars’ from 1962 to 1965, and then in the ‘Softly, Softly’ spin-offs until 1976. But he regularly cropped up all over the place, including in TV dramas such as ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Casualty’.

October

Gordon Haskell

Born: 27/04/1946, Verwood, Dorset   Died: 16/10/2020
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Gordon Haskell had a long musical career, including replacing Greg Lake in the prog-rock band King Crimson, but achieved late fame with his bluesy hit ‘How Wonderful You Are’ in 2001.

Spencer Davis

Born: 17/07/1939, Swansea, Wales   Died: 19/10/2020, Los Angeles, California, USA
A musician most notably with the 1960s Spencer Davis Group, Spencer David Nelson Davies went on to pursue a solo career and develop new acts.  He was nicknamed ‘professor’ because of his proficiency in languages and academic background. And he is no longer running.

Frank Bough

Born: 15/01/1933, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire   Died: 21/10/2020
Francis Joseph Bough was one of the most high-profile TV presenters of the 1970s and ‘80s, best known for presenting the BBC’s flagship sports show ‘Grandstand’, as well as ‘Nationwide’ and launching ‘Breakfast Time’ in 1983.  His later career was mired by accusations of drug-taking and using prostitutes.

Bobby Ball

Born: 28/01/1944, Oldham, Lancashire   Died: 28/10/2020, Blackpool, Lancashire
Bobby Ball (Robert Harper) was best known as half of the comedy duo Cannon and Ball, with Tommy Cannon (Thomas Derbyshire). He also starred in several sitcoms including ‘Not Going Out’, ‘Last of the Summer Wine’, ‘Benidorm’ and ‘Heartbeat’. His death came following a positive test for the COVID-19 virus.

Robert Fisk

Born: 12/07/1946, Maidstone, Kent   Died: 30/10/2020, Dublin, Ireland
Author, journalist and award-winning Middle East correspondent for the Independent newspaper, Robert Fisk lived in the Arab world for more than 40 years, covered a multitude of wars and was often critical of US and Israeli policy in the area.

Nobby Stiles

Born: 18/05/1942, Manchester   Died: 30/10/2020
Footballer – a notable defender, primarily with Manchester United and also a member of England’s World Cup winning team of 1966.  Norbert Peter Stiles was also renowned for his spectacles and false teeth, both of which were removed whilst he was playing.

Sean Connery

Born: 25/08/1930, Edinburgh   Died: 31/10/2020, Nassau, Bahamas
Yesh, Mish Moneypenny. Born Thomas Connery, Sean Connery became widely known as agent 007 James Bond, the first actor to play the part, and for some the defining one.  He went on to have a distinguished career in other films including ‘The Untouchables’ (for which he won an Oscar), ‘The Hunt for Red October’, ‘Highlander’ and ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’. He was also a high profile but mostly absent supporter of Scottish independence.

November

Geoffrey Palmer

Born: 04/06/1927, London   Died: 05/11/2020, Buckinghamshire
Geoffrey Dyson Palmer was an actor best known for his roles in TV sitcoms, such as ‘Butterflies’ with Wendy Craig (1978–1983) and ‘As Time Goes By’ (1992–2005) with Judi Dench. He had impressive radio and film credentials too, including ‘A Fish Called Wanda’, ‘The Madness of King George’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’.

John Sessions

Born: 11/01/1953, Largs, Ayrshire   Died: 02/11/2020, London
Comedian, actor and impressionist, RADA-trained John Sessions (John Gibb Marshall) was best known for being a regular on the TV panel shows ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ and ‘QI’.  He also worked on the 1980s satirical TV puppet show ‘Spitting Image’.

Jonathan Sacks

Born: 08/03/1948, Lambeth, London   Died: 07/11/2020, London
Jonathan Sacks was a former Chief Rabbi, philosopher, theologian and author.

Peter Sutcliffe

Born: 02/06/1946, Bingley, West Yorkshire   Died: 13/11/2020, Durham
Peter William Sutcliffe, known as ‘the Yorkshire Ripper’, was a serial killer.  In 1981, he was found guilty of murdering 13 women and attempting to murder 7 others between 1975 and 1980.  He spent the rest of his life in prison.

Des O’Connor

Born: 12/01/1932, Stepney, London   Died: 14/11/2020, Buckinghamshire
Desmond Bernard O’Connor was a comedian, singer, TV presenter and chat and game-show host, who was barely away from the television from the 1960s to the 2000s.  He had his own show from 1963 and was the regular butt of jokes by comic duo Morecambe and Wise about his singing, but in fact had a very successful recording career.

Ray Clemence

Born: 15/08/1948, Skegness, Lincolnshire   Died: 15/11/2020
Footballer Raymond Neal Clemence was an accomplished goalkeeper, most notably with Liverpool in the 1970s, then Tottenham Hotspur, as well as for the England national side.

David Prowse

Born: 01/07/1935, Bristol   Died: 28/11/2020, London
David Charles Prowse was a weightlifter and character actor who portrayed Darth Vader (but not his voice, due to Prowse’s Bristol accent) in the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy.  He was also the Green Cross Man, the face of a road safety campaign promoting the Green Cross Code for children.

December

Barbara Windsor

Born: 06/08/1937, Shoreditch, London   Died: 10/12/2020, London
Bubbly actress Dame Barbara Windsor (Barbara Ann Deeks) began her stage career at the age of 13, but is best known for appearing in 9 ‘Carry On’ films and for playing Peggy Mitchell in the TV soap opera ‘EastEnders’. She also did extensive work for charity.

John le Carré

Born: 19/10/1931, Poole, Dorset   Died: 12/12/2020, Truro, Cornwall
John le Carré was the pen name of David John Moore Cornwell, one-time member of the security services (allegedly) MI5 and MI6, and author of espionage novels. He left MI6 following the success of his 1963 novel, ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’ and his subsequent works included ‘The Looking Glass War’, ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, ‘Smiley’s People’, ‘The Little Drummer Girl’, ‘The Night Manager’, ‘The Constant Gardener’ and ‘Our Kind of Traitor’.

 

*****

If you believe anyone else should be added to this list, or spot what you think might be an error, please don’t leave a comment, but do drop me a line via the contact page.

Celebrities from beyond these shores, but well-known here, who, sadly, died in 2020 included, in no particular order: Pierre Cardin, Gerald Houllier, Johnny Nash, Eddie van Halen, Helen Reddy, Michael Lonsdale, Trini Lopez, Little Richard, Bill Withers, Kenny Rogers, Max von Sydow, Kirk Douglas and Ennio Morricone.

Did you know – there is a full set of timelines on A Bit About Britain, including one for the 21st century?  This has been updated up to the end of 2020.

62 thoughts on “Who we lost in 2020

  1. pollymacleod

    I recognised many of these, some living to a ripe old age, some, sadly going too soon. Barbara Windsor’s fate was very sad. Diana Rigg was so beautiful and Sean Connery was just gorgeous, and, as you say the defining Mr Bond.

  2. bob

    Most had a good innings or achieved something so the main one I.m sad about is Caroline Flack. Not a fan of reality TV in any way but I remember being puzzled and shocked, which is rare for me, that she had picked that route out at so young an age when she still had so many pathways left open,to her even if not on television but I thought the same about George Micheal. Could have travelled the world, got himself fit, created a new life for himself somewhere else but became a hermit on a downward spiral. Quite a sad reflection on modern fame.

  3. dinahmow

    Every tick of the Big Clock seems to strike another I know. Not surprising, I suppose, since I’m in the same bracket as many! But it is a bit of a jolt to realise that someone you knew long ago has made it onto an obit. list of the famous!

  4. Jim Borden

    quite the list. Read each one until November to find out which person would be despised. Sorry to see Ben Cross on the list; Chariots of Fire is may all-time favorite movie…

  5. willedare

    I only recognize a few names on the list. Very humbling to skim through all of the links and see an entire life condensed to a few sentences. I am puzzled and astounded that a lifetime of learning and experiences and wisdom just ends… with all of that accumulated information simply disappearing! Thank you for honoring all of these human beings with this post.

    1. Mike@bitaboutbritain Post author

      One of life’s great mysteries – what happens to all that talent and promise when somebody goes? Does it seep out, gradually, or is it turned off, like a switch? Or is it still there, somewhere?

  6. April Munday

    I caught the obituaries of some of them during the year and I was surprised at how (relatively) young some of them were. I know that not everyone can be an Olivia de Haviland or Vera Lynn and live more than a century, but quite a few didn’t even make it to 70.

  7. hilarymb

    Hi Mike – thanks for those … as to who will find out if anyone born last year will be famous … will be interesting to know about now! I know I won’t be around … the daisies will be beckoning I hope in a couple of decades or so … take care – and I’m coming back to go through … All the best to this wonderful country of ours?! Hilary

  8. marmeladegypsy

    I read a lot of obituaries (because I’m a little weird) but I hadn’t heard about Geoffrey Palmer and John Sessions, two whose work I’ve enjoyed for many years. Especially Palmer. Yes, we lost a lot — many illness, many Covid. Stay safe over there. I’m guessing you are still in lockdown. I wish we would lock down harder but if you heard our news from last week, it wouldn’t matter to many. You barely saw a mask in that crowd, unless it was totally covering the face to avoid identification. Off to a new year…. I’m glad you are a stable part of it.

    1. Mike@bitaboutbritain Post author

      It’s scary everywhere, Jeanie. I’m not usually a great one for rules but, frankly, I simply cannot comprehend the mindset of anyone that deliberately flouts the regulations around keeping people as safe as we can at the moment.

  9. Meks

    While I am not familiar with all these names, I do recognise quite a few and remember having heard of their death on the news. With others, I had no idea they were still around, to be honest.
    Born in 2020 – I wonder whether their parents will forever tell them they were born in the Corona Year, or remember the year for other things.

  10. Easymalc

    I knew there were many that were taken from us this year, but well done for naming them all. It’s frightening to see so many names that I’ve enjoyed watching, listening to or reading about over the years will no longer be with us.

  11. artandarchitecturemainly

    My father loved Vera Lynn’s music during the war and I quickly learned her music and words by the early 50s. My husband, on the other hand, was deeply influenced by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and grieved his passing.

    1. andyabcdef

      My dad was in the Royal Army Band with Julian Bream. They would apparently practice scales in the barracks together so my dad said. My dad was an oboe player. You can hear him on Greg Lake, I believe in Father Christmas – or at least the version with the oboe. And other pieces.
      (Happy face)

    1. Mary D

      Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. His name is 6th from the end if you want to read a bit about him.

A Bit About Britain welcomes visitors. What do you think?

%d bloggers like this: