Souters given chance to pay last respects to Selkirk-born sitcom star Peter Blake

Selkirk-born actor Peter Blake is to make one last poignant return to the town of his birth later this month.

Actor Peter Blake in Dear John.
Actor Peter Blake in Dear John.

The stage and screen star died at his home in France in July at the age of 69, and now friends and family of his are planning to scatter his ashes in his Borders birthplace the week after next.

His pal Malcolm Rennie, a fellow actor, is arranging that send-off for Wednesday, October 17, and any kith or kin wishing to pay their last respects are invited to meet at noon at the Philipburn House Hotel, in Linglie Road.

Born John Beattie Dempsey on December 8, 1948, in Selkirk, he remained fond of his birthplace and what had been his mother’s home town and often returned even after his family moved south to Lincolnshire.

Trips back north for Selkirk’s annual common riding in June were one of the highlights of his summers, according to friends.

“Peter was born in Selkirk in 1948 and was very proud of his Scottish heritage,” said pal Helen Gordon-Smith.

“He would often return for the Selkirk Common Riding.”

Peter described himself as “the man who was nearly famous three times”, those occasions being for the sitcoms Dear John and Agony and a series of TV advertisements for Pepsi in the mid-1970s.

It was the cola adverts that gave him his breakthrough, casting him as a rockabilly singer sporting a studded leather jacket, extravagant quiff and vintage Levi jeans and even fleetingly making a pop star of him.

Lipsmackin’ Rock ’n’ Rollin’, the song he sung in those ads, was a No 40 hit in 1977, spending four weeks in the top 75 and earning him an appearance on the BBC1 chart show Top of the Pops.

A follow-up single, 1979’s Boogie Breakout, flopped, however, spelling the end of his brief pop career.

Bigger breaks were to follow, though, in the form of roles in the sitcoms Agony, screened by ITV from 1979 to 1981, and Dear John, screened by BBC1 in 1986 and 1987.

Peter played radio disc jockey Andy Evol in Len Richmond and Anna Raeburn’s Agony, cast alongside Maureen Lipman, Simon Williams and Bill Nighy, and Eric Morris, alias Kirk St Moritz, in the John Sullivan-scripted Dear John, also starring Ralph Bates and Belinda Lang.

His other TV work included appearances in four episodes of the BBC1 soap opera EastEnders in 2010 as brewery representative Ken Tate and as Richard Briers’s colleague Rex Tynan in the sitcom Ever Decreasing Circles on BBC1 in 1986, Michael Vincent in the period drama Penmarric on BBC1 in 1979 and Billy Binns in the crime drama Out on ITV in 1978.

He was no stranger to the big screen either, appearing in the films Intimate Games in 1976, Panic in 1978, Murder on Line One in 1989, Cash in Hand in 1998, The Lift in 2008 and Man and Dog in 2010.

Most of his working life was spent on stage, though, beginning with a part in a production of the William Shakespeare play The Winter’s Tale at the 1966 Edinburgh Festival.