Peter Sallis and a “nice bit of Wensleydale cheese lad”

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Peter Sallis the actor best-known for voicing Wallace in Aardman Animation’s Wallace & Gromit  and starring in long-running BBC sitcom Last Summer Of Wine, has died at the age of 96.

“It is with sadness that we announce that our client Peter Sallis died peacefully, with his family by his side, at Denville Hall on Friday, June 2,” his agents Jonathan Altaras Associates said.

London-born Sallis had 25 years of acting experience under his belt, appearing opposite Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, before he landed the role of mild-mannered Norman “Cleggy” Clegg in Last Summer Of Wine, which ran from 1973-2010 and is the UK’s longest-running sitcom. He was the only actor to appear in all 295 episodes.

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Sallis reached an even wider audience after taking on the voice of Wallace, the cheese-loving Yorkshireman, in Nick Park’s animated series Wallace & Gromit, starring in 1989’s BAFTA-winning A Grand Day Out and Oscar-winning titles The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave and The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. He won an Annie Award for Best Voice Acting in an animated feature production for the latter. Sallis’ final turn as voicing the inventor was in 2008’s A Matter Of Loaf And Death.

The actor often spoke about how happy he was to have had such success late in life. “It’s pleasing knowing millions are going to see your work and enjoy it…to have a legacy like this is very comforting. I am lucky to have been involved.”

Sallis was awarded an OBE for services in drama at the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2007. At the time he said: “I don’t even dream about these things, which is probably just as well..but it means a lot to me.”

I suspect that many adults who were fans of what was originally intended to be a children’s programme, will be extremely sad as the programme appealed to all ages and developed a cult following. It was worth watching just to hear Sallis utter the immortal words “a nice bit of Wensleydale cheese lad”………….he will be sadly missed.

Let us hope for an early showing of the inimitable “Curse of the Were-Rabbit” film.

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