Grange Hill star Nicholas Donnelly dies aged 83

Actor Nicholas Donnelly, known for his role as Mr MacKenzie in the children’s drama series Grange Hill, has died aged 83.

Donnelly played the beloved teacher in the series for around eight years, from 1985 to 1989, after landing his first major TV role in BBC police show Dixon Of Dock Green as Sergeant Johnny Wills.

The star’s family revealed he died in his sleep at the weekend, and hadn’t been ill.

They said in a statement, via PA News Agency: ‘He was a gracious, kind and lovely man, a wonderful father and grandfather.

‘He was also very funny and brilliant at telling stories, acting out all the characters, marvellous company and a privilege to know.

‘He loved nothing more than offering hospitality and making people feel welcome.’

A fan account of Grange Hill paid tribute to Donnelly, writing: ‘It is my very sad duty to inform you that Nicholas Donnelly who played Mr MacKenzie sadly passed away this morning. RIP xxxx’

Donnelly also appeared in Dixon Of Dock Green as Sergeant Johnny Wills in around 200 episodes of the programme, which featured Jack Warner in the title role as George Dixon.

Reflecting on his role in 2015, he was quoted as saying to the Daily Express: ‘Many of my scenes were with Jack Warner, who played Dixon – particularly as his right-hand man with a fast pair of legs, whenever we had to chase a load of crooks. The producers allowed me to progress through the ranks to acting sergeant, sergeant and even dog handler.’

He also told the newspaper: ‘Jack was kind to everyone and very professional; he made the show a huge success and we were like a family because of him. We always had an end of season party and as soon as Jack walked in the room you noticed him; it was his charisma: you can’t define it, buy it or learn it – but he had it.’

Warner’s character’s greeting of ‘Evening all’ and ‘Goodnight, all’ became a staple of the programme.

Donnelly met his wife Alrun during his National Service in Germany in the late 1950s, and the couple were married for more than 60 years.

They had two sons, twin daughters and five grandchildren.

The actor, who was a Queens Park Rangers fan, grew up in Kensington, and his other TV credits included appearances in The Saint, which starred Roger Moore.

His acting credits extended to the big screen where he starred in films like 1982 horror film Venom and comedy film Carry On Sergeant.

In 1993 he retired to Hastings with his wife, where he was a lay minister at his Catholic Church, St Mary Star of the Sea.

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