Moray Watson, the dependable character actor who spent 60 years in the business working with major stars

Moray Watson’s 2016 autobiography was titled Looking Back and Dropping Names. As one of Britain’s most recognisable and dependable character actors, often in supporting roles as colonels, aristocrats or judges, he was able to litter the book with dozens of the biggest names on stage and screen.

He spent 60 years in casts alongside major stars ranging from Laurence Olivier and Celia Johnson to David Niven and Judi Dench, and was described by one critic as “handsome in a rugged, Peter Grimes-ish way”.

After his introduction to television audiences as assistant control engineer Peter Marsh in the landmark sci-fi serial The Quatermass Experiment (1953), Watson switched to soap opera, spending a year (1962-3) in the women’s magazine serial Compact as art editor Richard Lowe, then returning for the last month of its run in 1965.

Younger viewers saw him in the second series (1971) of the children’s fantasy drama Catweazle as the hard up Lord Collingford, whose son hides the time-travelling magician of the title in the grounds of their country estate.

Later, Watson brought his military bearing and experience as an Army officer to the role of the retired brigadier in The Darling Buds of May (1991-3). The feel-good comedy drama, based on H.E. Bates’s novels set in 1950s rural Kent, was a runaway hit with viewers.

Moray (pronounced “Murray”) Watson was born the youngest of three children in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to parents of Scottish descent – Gerard, a shipbroker who was killed fighting in the Second World War, and Jean (née McFarlane). His two brothers later served as majors in the Army.

Watson was educated at Eton and did two years’ national service in the Northamptonshire Regiment (1946-8). While training at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, he met actress Pam Marmont – daughter of the Hollywood silent film star Percy – and married her in 1955.

Following repertory theatre in Nottingham, Leatherhead and…

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