Broadcasting legend Nicholas Parsons CBE died on 28th January, after a short illness. Stylish actor and radio and television presenter, he was perhaps most famous for his radio series Just A Minute, the Radio 4 quiz show which he hosted from its inception in 1967 until his death. Tributes have poured in from his many broadcast friends, praising his wit, intellect, charm, warmth and consummate professionalism.
Born in Grantham, Lincolnshire in 1923, and educated at St Paul’s School in London, Nicholas Parsons became a full-time actor following World War II, when he appeared in a selection of theatre, film and television roles. He made his West End Debut in 1945 at the Aldwych Theatre, and continued on stage, both in roles in plays including Boeing-Boeing, and as a comedian, notably as resident comedian at London’s Windmill Theatre. In 1947 Nicholas made his film debut in The Master of Bankdam, and in the 1950’s and 60’s appeared in supporting roles in many British films.
At the same time as his stage and film work, Nicholas entered the world of TV, and in the 1950’s and 1960’s became known as the straight man to comedian Arthur Haynes. During the late 1960’s, he created and presented a satirical programme on BBC Radio called Listen to This Space, for which in 1967 he received the Radio Personality of the Year Award. In 1971 Nicholas appeared in the Anglia Television Quiz Show, Sale of the Century, which continued until 1984.
Hosting the weekly BBC Radio’s Just A Minute followed and Nicholas did not miss an episode from the first show in 1967 until 49 years later in 2018. He continued hosting this unscripted show until his death.
Nicholas Parson was involved in many charities, including the Grand Order of Water Rats, the Lord’s Taverners and was Ambassador for Childline and The Silver Line.
In 2004 he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire, for services to drama and broadcasting, and in 2014 promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for charitable services especially to children’s charities. He held the Guinness World Record for the longest after-dinner speech, 11 hours, until it was reclaimed by former holder Gyles Brandreth.
He has been a fixture on the celebrity circuit for many years, with his wife Ann, and daughter Suzy by his side, and will be greatly missed not only by his devoted family, but also by his many friends and fans.