Geoffrey Chater Robinson 1921-2021

6
1905
Geoffrey Chater

For many of us in Iden, it is hard to believe that Geoffrey, who died on October 16 aged 100 is no longer with us.

Using his stage name, Geoffrey Chater, he was a celebrated character actor, seen in over 160 film and television roles spanning a career which started in repertory after he left the army in 1946, having served in Burma and India during the war. The discipline of performing in the evening and rehearsing the next play on the following afternoon provided the perfect grounding for developing his acting skills.

He went on to work alongside some of the country’s leading Shakespearean actors at the Old Vic in the 1950s and at various leading theatres thereafter, alongside such legends as Ingrid Bergman and Michael Redgrave, earning many outstanding reviews.

In 1950 he started a long television career which finished in 2005 with Midsomer Murders as the beekeeping monk, Brother Robert. Besides serious roles, he played in some of the most memorable comedy shows including Steptoe and Son, Dad’s Army, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and brilliantly in One Foot in the Grave, representing establishment characters such as army generals, bank managers and vicars, all of which entirely suited his persona.

His long film career was also very impressive and he took great pride that he had worked with some of the finest directors and had roles in three of what are believed to be amongst the greatest British movies of all time- Gandhi, Barry Lyndon and famously If, where he was the very weird school chaplain (a film co-written by the late Rye resident John Howlett.)

One of Geoffrey’s greatest joys was the part of Mr Algernon Wyse in the 1985 television production of Mapp and Lucia, in which he pottered around genially wearing a monocle, plus fours and floppy bow tie alongside Prunella Scales and Geraldine McEwan vying for social supremacy. As this was very conveniently filmed in Rye it enabled him to entertain his co-stars at his home during breaks in filming.

It was in 1966 that Geoffrey and his family moved to Iden where they would live for the next 55 years. He loved being part of the village and community, attended many events and was known to being a down-to-earth character who preferred to shrimp in the sea on Camber Sands rather than partying on the celebrity circuit.

He married Jenny in 1949 and they celebrated their 70th anniversary in style with their village friends, sons, Simon and Piers and daughter Annabelle and grandchildren. Up until his death, Geoffrey was the president of the Iden Bowls Club, attending their annual dinners and also reading at their occasional concerts and other village fund raising events. He was a regular worshipper at Iden church and was reading the morning lesson at services right up until the lockdowns began with the undiminished voice that was so much his trademark.

A cricket enthusiast, Geoffrey was a long-time member of the MCC where he often would play in their celebrity matches with the likes of Denis Compton and other cricketing greats. He once joked that as he was getting older, Lords had moved him to the aged members’ row in the stands and that as each one died, he was getting perilously far too close to the edge!

He was able to give a splendid luncheon for his Iden friends at Lords on his 90th birthday when the scoreboard greeted his guests with his age and the words “not out”

It was a great sadness for us not to have seen Geoffrey since the lockdowns and to celebrate with him his 100th birthday last March. His legacy will not only be his contribution to so many popular appearances on stage and screen but also to the memories many of us have of the large part he and Jenny played in village life. He was a great family man, loved living in Iden and was always courteous, convivial and generous with his time.

Many of us will miss him but have the compensation of still seeing him in the rich legacy of his old films and numerous television programmes whenever they are repeated.

Image Credits: Heidi Foster .

6 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the lovely tribute to Geoffrey Chater, Michael. A great actor and a lovely man. I did correspond with Geoffrey last Christmas and again in March, and was hoping to meet up with him, but sadly that was not to be. He will be much missed. I send my condolences to his wife Jenny and the family.

  2. Thanks for worthy tribute Michael, perhaps worth noting that interestingly Geoffrey was Rye Fawkes in 1968, condolences to his family and friends from all at Rye Bonfire Society.

  3. Thank you so much to everybody involved in this wonderful tribute to my Pa – and also for the reminder of Rye Fawkes! I was 8 years old and remember it so well.

    • Hi Annabel, I was interested to read your memory of the 1968 Rye Fawkes. I attended my first event in 1994 after it had been resurrected after a few years of absence. I was brought to Rye by Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine series of children’s books – Rye Royal, published in 1969 features the Rye Fawkes pagaent. I live in Norfolk, but over the last 30 years have visited Rye often, and attended a number of the Rye Fawkes events. My wife and I were at the 2021 event, and I am currently (Feb 22) writing a report on the weekend for the Malcolm Saville Society journal, Acksherley! In research for the article I have found out it was your father who was Rye Fawkes in 1968. I am mentioning your father in my article as his appearance as Rye Fawkes would have been the last before Rye Royal was published, and it is poignant that he died just a month before the 2021 event. Malcolm Saville was a native of Sussex, having been born in Hastings in 1901. Saville moved around a fair bit, but his latter years were spent at Winchelsea and Ringmer, he died in 1981.

  4. Hello From New Zealand,
    I must first of all say how sorry I was to see , when filling in time,on the computer, to read of Geoffrey Chaters passing.
    I was a member of the Rye Bonfire Society, in fact Secretary at the time), when one of the things I had to do was both find, and for no cost may I add, a personality who was available to come and do the honours ,as it were, on Bonfire Night. I never regretted for one instant , contacting him. He was such a great choice, and I can well remember on the occasion of return trip to my home town, I once again was able to catch up with him once again. My condolences go to both his wife and family. John Wallbank

  5. Thank you, Michael, for a fitting tribute to a lovely man and a good actor. He will always be held in high esteem by those of us who are devotees of Mapp & Lucia and who particularly enjoyed the first TV production.

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