Belfast Telegraph

Cribbins's Railway Children reunion

Bernard Cribbins was reunited with his co-stars from much-loved film classic The Railway Children today after 44 years.

The veteran star was joined by Jenny Agutter and Gary Warren, who played the Waterbury children in the timeless movie, as the 85-year-old received the JM Barrie Award in recognition of his lifetime of work which has made him a well-known figure for generations of children.

The stars came together at an event at the Radio Theatre at the BBC's New Broadcasting House in London which celebrated Cribbins's career in film, TV, radio and on the stage.

In the 1970s film adaptation of E Nesbit's book The Railway Children, Cribbins played station porter Perks who befriends Bobbie (Agutter), Phyllis (Sally Thomsett) and Peter (Warren), who move from London to Yorkshire after their father is wrongly jailed for espionage.

It famously featured the tearjerking moment at the film's climax when Agutter - now 61 - cries "Daddy, my daddy" as they are reunited on the platform of Oakworth station.

Cribbins continues to have a strong presence on children's television in his CBeebies series Old Jack's Boat, and appeared regularly in Doctor Who as Wilfred Mott. He also played the Doctor's companion in a 1966 spin-off film Daleks - Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.

Aside from his acting, millions of Britons also grew up listening to his narration of The Wombles TV series in the 1970s, as a storyteller on 114 editions of Jackanory and, before that, his novelty chart hits Hole In The Ground and Right Said Fred.

Among those paying tribute today were the BBC's director-general Tony Hall, former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan and Kate Robertson, the daughter of Wombles creator Elisabeth Beresford.

Today's award was given by Action for Children's Arts (ACA) which presents a range of honours to figures associated with enhancing the cultural lives of young people.

The director of BBC children's programmes, Joe Godwin, said: "I'm so pleased that the BBC and ACA have joined forces to give this wonderful award to a real hero of children's film and television. Bernard has been a big part of so many of our childhoods, and now as the star of Old Jack's Boat he's a huge star for a new generation."

Broadcaster Floella Benjamin told Cribbins: "You are a treasure for our nation's children."

Guests at the event saw a film which Warren had made on the set of The Railway Children of Cribbins larking around.

Agutter also performed a comedy verse which Cribbins had taught them while they filmed.

Thomsett had been due to attend to complete the set but she had to go to an emergency dental appointment after breaking a tooth.

Cribbins said: "Looking back at all these people I have worked with, I send you all a huge hug and a great big kiss."

Warren, 60, said afterwards: "We haven't seen each other for 40-something years. Sally, unfortunately, lost a tooth this morning - otherwise the three of us would have been together for the first time in 40 years. It's quite a long time isn't it? It's freaky."

He said he and and Agutter had met up for a brief catch-up before the event. "She will tell you the same thing, time hadn't changed, boom, straight back, like brother and sister. We obviously have a connection over the years.

"Jenny hadn't seen me for so long that she didn't know whether she was going to see a little bald, fat guy - but she didn't!

Agutter said of being reunited with her screen brother: "To have the time to sit and talk, we haven't really had that since The Railway Children. He looks very youthful. It feels like it was not that long ago. But the person who seems to have eternal youth is Bernard. He's got so much energy.

"Bernard is a great communicator and he is one of the people that manages to keep us all in contact with each other. He is an extraordinary actor comedian, musician and person - he's a real magician, he can pull off any trick really.

"And you don't notice him doing it either. He's also very bad at taking compliments so today must be quite painful for him in a way, but he should know that he is appreciated.

"It was wonderful to play Roberta but the glue is Bernard. Lionel (Jeffries, the director) cast it very carefully. Bernard would just bring those ingredients."

Also at the awards event was actress Deddie Davies, 76, who played Perks's wife Nell in the film.

Agutter went on to star in many more films including An American Werewolf In London and Logan's Run, and she starred as the mother of the family in an ITV remake of The Railway Children - a part originally played by the late Dinah Sheridan.

She is now known for her role in BBC One's Call The Midwife.

Thomsett went on to star in ITV sitcom Man About The House, while Warren stepped away from the spotlight and left the acting world within years of his role in the film.

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