Ian Gardiner obituary

·2 min read

My friend Ian Gardiner, who has died aged 92, was an actor perhaps best known for playing the role of Reginald Molehusband in a 1967 public information film about parking.

Contrary to expectation the film became a cult hit as it showed Reginald, “whose reverse parking was a public danger”, stalling, grinding the gears and mounting the pavement as he tried to master one of driving’s most difficult arts. The Central Office of Information short became so well known that “doing a Reggie” briefly entered the lexicon as an expression for anyone getting themselves into a tangle at the kerbside.

Although the original footage of the film was lost, the audio was preserved, and in 2006 Ian was asked by the BBC Breakfast show to re-enact his performance to the accompaniment of the original commentary. It proved to be as popular as the first time around, and was his last TV appearance.

Ian was born in Brentwood, Essex, the third of four children of Annie (nee Primrose) and her husband, Archibald, who were both doctors. When Ian was three his father died from pneumonia, and afterwards the family moved to Maidstone, where, at the local grammar school, aged 14, he played the lead in Henry V.

After national service he trained as an actor at the Webber Douglas Academy in London, and made his West End debut at the Palace theatre in 1953 as Thora Hird and Arthur Askey’s son in The Love Match. It was in that show that he met fellow actor Janet Davies (who later played Mrs Pike in Dad’s Army). They married the same year, and had a son, Andrew.

On television Ian appeared in Dr Finlay’s Casebook, Compact and Z Cars, as well as in BBC School’s Television Club and various commercials. Then came the Reginald Molehusband role, which led to spontaneous greetings from strangers in the street for many years afterwards.

I met Ian when we were both appearing in Philip King’s Who Says Murder at the Everyman theatre in Cheltenham in 1978. Later he toured in the UK and Italy as narrator with The Rocky Horror Show, and his West End runs included Present Laughter (Vaudeville, 1981) and as Mr McTeazle in Tom Stoppard’s Dirty Linen (Arts, 1982).

He always adored touring with shows for the opportunity it gave him to visit historic sights and antique shops – not to mention the natural landscape, especially in Scotland.

He would have liked to have kept on at his acting deep into old age, were it not for the onset of osteoarthritis. But he kept in touch with acting friends through the Stage Golfing Society, having been introduced to golf by Askey back in the 1950s.

Janet died in 1986. He is survived by his second wife, Teresa (nee Forsyth), who was also an actor, Andrew, and his granddaughters Ellie and Sian.

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