David Burke (British actor)

David Burke (born 25 May 1934)[1] is an English actor, known for playing Watson in the initial series of Granada Television's 1980s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which starred Jeremy Brett in the title role.[2] He also starred as Josef Stalin in the last two episodes of Reilly, Ace of Spies.[3]

David Burke
Born (1934-05-25) 25 May 1934
Spouse(s)Anna Calder-Marshall
ChildrenTom Burke

Early life

Burke was born on 25 May 1934 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, and trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.[4]


In the theatre, Burke originated the part of Niels Bohr in Michael Frayn's Copenhagen.[5]

He played Dr. Watson in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the initial series and then left the programme after receiving an invitation to join the Royal Shakespeare Company along with his wife, Anna.[6] They both considered the joint work to be the best idea for their young son, Tom, who was around 3 years old at the time.[7][8] He was thought by many to portray Dr. Watson with an excellent style.[9][10] He was replaced by Edward Hardwicke, whom he had recommended as his successor.[11] Burke had earlier experience with Holmes having played the villain in an adaptation of "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" for the 1965 BBC series[12] starring Douglas Wilmer and Nigel Stock.

Other notable TV appearances include his turn as Joseph Stalin in the British serial Reilly, Ace of Spies and the John Wyndham science fiction story Random Quest.[13] He also played William Morris in the 1975 series The Love School.[14] Burke frequently portrays Johannes Coenradus Klene in the Dutch commercials for Klene liquorice. He appeared with his son, Tom Burke, in the 2006 BBC adaptation of the M.R. James ghost story, Number 13.

Personal life

Burke is married to Anna Calder-Marshall.[15] Their son Tom Burke is also an actor.[16]



Year Title Role Notes
1964 Rattle of a Simple Man Jack Uncredited
2005 The Trial of the King Killers Hugh Peters
2009 The Summer House Freddie Short
2010 Love & Distrust Freddie Video
2012 The Woman in Black PC Collins
2016 The Young Messiah The Blind Rabbi
2018 Only the Lonely George Short


Year Title Role Notes
1963-1966 Coronation Street John Benjamin / Schoolmaster 5 episodes
1963-1969 Z Cars Ernie Franks / Dannyboy / Johnny Oulton 5 episodes
1965 Sherlock Holmes Sir George Burnwell 1 episode, "The Beryl Coronet"
1968 Dr. Finlay's Casebook Dr. Rawlings 1 episode
1970 The Woodlanders Giles Winterborne 4 episodes
1975 The Love School William Morris 4 episodes
1983 Reilly, Ace of Spies Joseph Stalin 2 episodes
1984-1985 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Dr John Watson 13 episodes
1993-2002 Casualty James / Ron Fisher 2 episodes
1998 The Bill Ch.Supt.Golding / Chief Supt. Golding 2 episodes
2002 Bertie and Elizabeth Lord Reith TV movie
Waking the Dead Philip Bryant 2 episodes
2003 Doctors Martin Shepley 1 episode
2004 The Inspector Lynley Mysteries DSI Webberley 2 episodes
2005 The Afternoon Play Judge 1 episode
A View from a Hill Patten TV movie
Dalziel and Pascoe Paul Boddison 2 episodes
MI-5 Fiona's Father 1 episode
2005-2016 Midsomer Murders Fred Messenger / John Farrow / Hedge 2 episodes
2006 Number 13 Gunton, Hotel Landlord TV movie
2007 Holby City Bernie Moore 1 episode
2014 The Musketeers Father Duval 1 episode
2015 Harry Price: Ghost Hunter Leonard Thornton TV movie
2016 Heartbeat 2 episodes


  1. Redmond 2011, p. 249.
  2. "Obituary - Edward Hardwicke". The Daily Telegraph. 17 May 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  3. Angelini, Sergio. "Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983)". BFI Screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  4. McMullen 2012.
  5. Law 2011, p. 126.
  6. Davies 2007.
  7. Haining 1994, p. 172.
  8. Barnes 2002, p. 118.
  9. Haining 1994, p. 169.
  10. Hulse, Stephen R. (2000). "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984)". Television Heaven. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  11. Barnes 2002.
  12. Smith 2009, pp. 81, 108.
  13. "BBC Four - Random Quest". BBC. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  14. "The Love School: The Artisan". BBC Genome Project. BBC. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  15. Cotter 2013, p. 36.
  16. Amer, Matthew (26 July 2012). "My Place: Tom Burke". Official London Theatre. Retrieved 22 December 2015.


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