Ron Pember

Ronald Henry Pember (born 11 April 1934) is a retired English actor, stage director and dramatist. With a prolific career stretching over thirty years, he established himself as a recognizable character actor in British television productions in the 1970s-1980s, usually in bit-parts, or as a support playing a worldly-wise everyman.

Ron Pember
Ronald Henry Pember

(1934-04-11) 11 April 1934
Plaistow, Essex, England
Stage Director
Years active1950s-1992
Yvonne Tylee (m. 1959)

He played the role of 'Alain Muny' in the 1970s BBC drama series Secret Army, and wrote a stage musical entitled "Jack the Ripper" (1974), about the Victorian murder spree in London in the late 1880s, which is regularly produced by amateur theatre groups and companies around the globe.

Early life

Pember was born in Plaistow, then in the county of Essex, on 11 April 1934, the son of Gladys and William Pember.[1] He received his formal education at Eastbrook Secondary Modern School, in Dagenham.[2]

In the mid-1950s he enlisted as an Aircraftman with the Royal Air Force as part of the United Kingdom's National Service military training system, being stationed in Egypt.[3] In the late 1950s he was a member of a Bexhill-on-Sea repertory company entitled 'The Penguin Players', which performed at the De La Warr Pavilion.[4]

Early career

His London stage debut was in the role of 'Harry' in a production of Treasure Island at the Mermaid Theatre in 1959.[5] He appeared in the musical Blitz! at the Adelphi Theatre in 1962.

In 1961 Pember made his television debut in the bit-part of "Wounded Soldier" in an episode of the British television series Looking About, entitled 'Florence Nightingale', subsequently appearing in that year in the television play Looking for Frankie, and an episode of the police drama series Dixon of Dock Green.

He appeared in cinema for the first time in an uncredited roll in the film The Pumpkin Eater (1964), and in appeared in a dramatized television adaptation of Pilgrim's Progress (1967) in several roles. He also appeared in 1967 in the cinema film Poor Cow.

From 1965-1968 he acted with the National Theatre in London, departing its troupe in 1969 to direct a tour of a production of Treasure Island in New York City, and several cities in Canada. He appeared in a bit-part of a "Corporal at a Railway Station" in the cinema film Oh, What a Lovely War (1969), and as a 'cobbler' in the cinema film Julius Caesar (1970).[6]

Mermaid Theatre residency

In the late 1960s to mid-1970s he worked at the Mermaid Theatre in London, where he acted in productions of the plays Bernard (1969), and the musical The Band Wagon (1969).[7] Whilst at The Mermaid he also directed productions of the stage plays The Goblet Game (1969); Lock Up Your Daughters (1969) (also acted in); Treasure Island (1969) (also acted in); Enter Solly Gold (1970), Henry IV, Part 1 & Henry IV, Part 2 (1970), and the self-written, directed and produced Dick Turpin (1970). He played the role of Trinculo in a production of The Tempest (1970) at the theatre, and also directed King and Country (1976), and The Point! (and co-adapted) (1976).[8]


He acted the role of "Jaffee" in an episode of the television Victorian crime series The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (1971), and played "Sgt. Mitchell" in the television film Speaking of Murder (1971) in the same year. He also continued working in small parts in cinema, appearing as a lift-operator in the horror-suspense film Death Line (1972). From 1973 to 1976 became a regular cast member in the Crown Court legal drama series, appearing in a number of its episodes in different characters, and was employed in bit-parts in more cinema films, appearing in Young Winston (1972), as the character of 'Jones' in the fantasy-adventure film The Land That Time Forgot (1975), and in the character of 'Eliot' in the World War 1 cinema film Aces High (1976).[9]

In 1974 he wrote and produced a theatre musical entitled 'Jack the Ripper', based on the murder rampage in London at the end of the Victorian era, which had a run in London's West End theatre.[10] Its stage debut was at the Players' Theatre in Covent Garden in June 1974. It transferred to the Ambassadors Theatre in September 1974, and finished its run at the Cambridge Theatre in early 1975.[11] The play was subsequently published with Samuel French, Ltd..

In 1974 Pember performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon in a production of Twelfth Night. He appeared in the play Liza of Lambeth at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1976. In 1978 a play Pember authored 1800 and Froze to Death was performed by the C.V.I. Theatre Company in Coventry which he directed the production of, and later in that year he acted in a production of The Cherry Orchard at the Riverside Studio Theatre in Hammersmith.[12]

From 1976 to 1984 Pember was a member of the dramatic troupe of the highly popular television comedy series The Dick Emery Show and The Two Ronnies.

In 1977 he appeared in a BBC television series dramatization of Nicholas Nickleby in the character of Mr. Sawley.

He ended the decade by playing the character of Makins in the 'Jack the Ripper' (which he had written a stage musical about earlier in the decade) Victorian murder-thriller cinema film Murder by Decree (1979).

Pember played Belgian Resistance fighter Alain Muny in the BBC's World War 2 drama Secret Army, from 1977 to 1979.

Later career

After the end of Secret Army, he appeared in the character of "Poggio" in a British television film of John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's A Whore (1980), and in the same year directed a touring production in the United Kingdom of The Merchant of Venice. In 1983 he appeared briefly in the role of 'Basil', the unenthusiastic Chairman of a Tenants' Association in the highly successful BBC comedy series Only Fools and Horses, in an episode entitled "Homesick".[13] He subsequently performed in a British television series dramatizing H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man (1984) as the character "George Hall".[14]

He continued to work in cinema productions, appearing in the role of "Dobbs" in the period-comedy pastiche cinema film Bullshot (1983), and as a "Ferryman" in Ordeal by Innocence (1985).

In 1985 he played the role of "Seedle" in the Doctor Who radio drama Slipback, alongside his Secret Army ex-fellow cast member Valentine Dyall, and the next year appeared in an episode of the BBC Jersey based crime drama series Bergerac entitled Fires in the Fall.

In 1987 Pember began playing the role of "Dennis Timson" in the legal drama series Rumpole of the Bailey, which he continued with for the next 6 years until his retirement from acting. Along with working in Rumpole of the Bailey in the late 1980s-early 1990s he finished his career as an in-demand actor, working as a cast member in several television drama series, viz. Red Dwarf (1988), High Street Blues (1989), Bluebirds (1989), and All Good Things (1991).

His final appearances were as "Dennis Timson" in Rumpole of the Bailey (1992), and in the part of "Joe Bilger" in a BBC television drama series entitled Look at It This Way (1992).[15]

Personal life

Pember married Yvonne Tylee in 1959. He stopped acting after suffering a stroke in 1992, and retired to live in Southend-on-Sea.[16]



  1. Entry for Pember in 'Film' (2018).
  2. 'The Encyclopedia of British Film', Fourth edition, Edited by B. McFarlane. (Pub. Manchester University Press, 2013).
  3. 'Interview with the Graeme Cruickshank, British Library Theatre Project, 4 September 2006.
  4. 'National Service - A Memory of Bexhill', autobiographical account of National Service by Peter Westwood, 26 April 2008, 'Francis Frith Collection website (2018).
  5. Career profile for Pember in 'Film' (2018).
  6. Career profile for Pember in 'Film' (2018).
  7. 'Interview with Graeme Cruickshank', British Library Theatre Project,' 4 September 2006 P.13. (See above reference link).
  8. Career profile for Pember in 'Film' (2018).
  9. Acting career of Pember on IMDb (2018).
  10. Review of a commercial sound recording release of the 'Jack the Ripper' (1974) musical, 'Entertainment Focus', 27 March 2015.
  11. History of 'Jack the Ripper' musical (1974), 'Stage Door Records' website (2018).
  12. Theatrical career profile of Pember on Film
  13. Pember as 'Basil', 'Only Fools & Horses', Series 3, Episode 1, aired 10 November 1983. Published on Youtube 29 October 2009.
  14. Entry for Pember's career in IMDb.
  15. Entry for Pember's career in IMDb (2018).
  16. Discussion thread on Ron Pember, '' website, biographical post from Yvonne Pember, 24 March 2008.
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