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Obituary: Wendy Richard

Wendy Richard as Pauline Fowler

Obituary by Lizzie Guilfoyle

WENDY Richard, known to millions of television viewers as EastEnders‘ Pauline Fowler, has died at the age of 65. She had been suffering from cancer.

Although Richard first appeared on television as a teenager in Stranger on the Shore, which premiered in 1961, it was her portrayal of Joyce Harker in the 60’s sitcom The Newcomers that brought her to the attention of the British viewing public.

Roles in Dad’s Army, Up Pompeii, The Likely Lads and, of course, Are You Being Served? followed. But it was in 1985 that she truly became a household name playing Pauline Fowler in EastEnders. It was a role she played for 21 years – from the soap’s inaugural episode to her character’s death in 2006.

At the time, rumour had it that she insisted on being written out of the series because she wasn’t happy with her character’s development, particularly that Pauline was about to remarry. However, stress was also thought to be a factor in her decision to quit.

As well as television, Richard appeared in the films Carry On Matron and Carry On Girls, although her appearance in the cult 1965 Beatles movie Help! ended up on the cutting room floor. And although uncredited, her distinctive cockney voice can be heard on Mike Sarne’s hit single Come Outside.

Richard endured two battles with breast cancer – once in the mid 1990s and again in 2002 – and although she was given a clean bill of health in 2005, she learned last year that the disease had returned in an aggressive form. On October 10, after announcing that her diagnosis was terminal, she married her fourth husband John Burns, 20 years her junior.

Richard died today (February 26, 2009) in the Harley Street Clinic with Burns by her side. Her agent Kevin Francis said: “She was incredibly brave and retained her sense of humour right to the end.”