Sir David Jason returns to Margate and Pluckley to discuss classic episodes of Only Fools and Horses and The Darling Buds of May
PUBLISHED: 08:33 02 September 2017
Forms part of a special documentary currently being aired on TV channel Gold
He is one of our best loved actors, with a career which has spanned half a century. And in a special programme looking back at his remarkable life, Sir David Jason has revisted parts of Kent where he filmed some of his most memorable scenes.
Best known as wheeler-dealer Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter in the long-running comedy Only Fools and Horses, he also enjoyed huge success in the TV adaptation of Kentish classic, HE Bates’ the Darling Buds of May.
And both series featured the county, prompting the star, now 77, to make a return for a series of shows for David Jason: My Life On Screen for the channel Gold.
On December 25 1989, the Jolly Boys’ Outing Christmas special of Only Fools hit the screens which saw Del and his mates from the Nag’s Head take a coach trip beano to Margate.
Memorable for its string of classic scenes - including the stop-off at what was once the Roman Galley pub on the Thanet Way near Reculver where the coach driver has one too many drinks and the cast’s fun and frolics both at Dreamland, then known as Bembom Brothers, and on the main sands - there was also filming at Dumpton Market, the police station at Broadstairs, homes at Cliftonville and the old aquarium in Cliftonville where the coach exploded.
On a visit back to Margate, by coach, Sir David said: “Del Boy Trotter would become the defining role in my career. It would make me a household name and pick up some big awards.
“This was one of my happiest times of my whole career – working with a close-knit cast and crew who became like a second family to me.
“And if one episode summed up that wonderful team spirit, it was the 1989 Christmas special.”
He made the trip with the director and actor John Challis who played used car dealer Boycie.
Added Sir David: “What a special time this was in all our careers.
“Our trip to Margate was typical of a Fools and Horses shoot. We had as much fun off-screen as on it.”
Filmed back in February of this year, the stars of the show posed outside the Only Fools and Horses graffiti hoarding outside Dreamland which remembers the famous episode.
Sir David said: “It’s nice to see we have not been forgotten. We’ve made it – we are on the hoarding of Margate.”
On the show’s shaky start with the ratings, the trio recalled it was a technicians’ strike at the time that made the BBC put it on again as a repeat, and this time, viewing figures shot up by two million as word of mouth about the strange new comedy spread in a time long before the internet and social media.
It went on to enjoy a booming future with the original half-hour episodes expanding in size to 50 minutes and the characters becoming far more in-depth as a result - endearing them further to the viewing public.
By the time of the Jolly Boys’ Outing, more than 20 million watched the show, and the episode which saw the Trotters finally become millionaires pulled in a remarkable 24.3 million viewers.
Explains Sir David: “There were millions of wannabe entrepreneurs all with plans to get rich quick. Del Boy just seemed to capture the moment.
“After two decades on television, it brought me a level of fame and recognition way beyond anything I have ever expected.
“I knew this was different – it had real people with real lives. People could relate it to their own lives.”
In 1991, Sir David took on the role of Pop Larkin in The Darling Buds of May, a Sunday evening comedy drama on ITV. Filmed in and around Pluckley, near Ashford, it ran for two years and 20 episodes and was another huge success.
Speaking about his time on the show, Sir David said: “On ITV I took on a very different character, but one the British public would take to their hearts
“The Kent countryside provided the idyllic setting for this exciting new adventure.
“It is still a beautiful part of England, it really is.
“Among our wonderful cast was a then unknown Catherine Zeta Jones.
“The series provided viewers with a perfect escape from modern life bringing families together on a Sunday night in front of the telly.”
Visiting once again the farm used in filming, the actor realised it was now being used for something completely different, and proudly took some credit in that happening.
He said: When we filmed here, it was a real life working farm. It looks like it has been converted in to holiday homes. I suspect we might have had something to do with that.
“It has changed very dramatically. When we were working here with all the props and everything, it was really scruffy, but then of course it was meant to be scruffy because that was how the Larkins lived.
“In fact the only thing that wasn’t scruffy about the Larkins was their car and that old Roller still looks in great condition.”
Before taking Ma Larkin’s actress Pam Ferris for one last ride in the bright yellow Rolls Royce on the documentary, Sir David said: “It is a wonderful piece of kit – still here and still working.”
Pam Ferris, who has since enjoyed a hugely successful career herself including roles in a Harry Potter movie, Luther, Call the Midwife and Rosemary and Thyme, lives in Eltham, close to Dover.
Sir David added: “Darling Buds was a fantastic time in my life, but after three series, I was ready for a new challenge. It had brought a colourful slice of escapism to Britain.”
TV channel Gold, which is also currently airing a series of documentaries looking at the success of Only Fools and Horses, broadcast the Sir David documentary for the first time last weekend.
The actor said: “As my life on screen has now gathered variety and quantity, I am hoping that I can offer a documentary which gives the audience an accurate range of my work. Fingers crossed, it should make for an enjoyable programme to reflect the enjoyment I’ve had in making each and every show.”
It also looks at his voiceover work for children’s hits such as Dangermouse and The Wind in the Willows as well as his many other starring roles in the likes of Open All Hours, Porterhouse Blue, Do Not Adjust Your Set and Porterhouse Blue.