Derek Nimmo Biography

Derek Nimmo at 37,
several years after completing
“Rubovian Legends” for the BBC

(Derek Nimmo publicity photo)

English comedy actor, author and impresario with a stage, film and television career that spanned 47 years.
Best known for his clerical acting roles and his plummy voice. 

Derek Nimmo was the voice of King Rufus of Rubovia in Gordon Murray’s “Rubovian Legends” television marionette plays for children.

Birth Name: Derek Robert Nimmo
Birthday: September 19, 1930
Birth Place: Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
Date of death: February 24, 1999
Cause of death: Pneumonia (contracted in hospital after falling downstairs at his home on 2nd December, 1998).

Father of Amanda, Timothy and Piers, and husband to Patricia (married 1955 - 24 February 1999). He and Pat lived in Kensington, west London, UK, for 30 years. He often had a quaint turn of phrase in his speech. For example, he said he’d first noticed Patricia because, “She was frightfully pretty...” And once while his accelerator pedal got stuck while driving, he ended up in a “charming lady’s greenhouse.” “I switched off the key and bought her a hydrangea.” Following a fall down stairs at his home on 2 December 1998, Derek spent the last few weeks of his life in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, initially in a coma.

Derek got into acting purely by chance. The story goes that we was smitten by an attractive girl, Patricia Brown, who tried to sell him a ticket for an amateur theatre production in which she was starring. He went to see the play, signed up with the company, and later he and Patricia got married. Their marriage was to last 43 years until his death. 

Derek's first professional stage appearance was at the Hippodrome in Bolton, Lancashire in 1952, and his London debut was five years later in Waltz of the Toreadors.

A popular actor and radio game show personality, Derek Nimmo is best remembered for his clerical roles on television, beginning as the Reverend Mervyn Noote in the extremely popular series, “All Gas and Gaiters” and ending as Father Dominic in “Oh Father!”  He was so convincing as a monk in “Oh Brother!” that he got into trouble with the Vatican while filming the series there for the BBC—he was arrested by the Vatican police on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, no less, on a charge of improper behaviour for a monk. Dressed as Brother Dominic, he had been seen by a shocked nun with his arm around a mini-skirted girl. It turned out that he was merely obliging an English tourist who asked the famous actor to pose with his daughter for a photograph.

Derek Nimmo starred as the
Reverend Mervyn Noote in the
BBC's extremely popular
"All Gas & Gaiters" television series.

Derek Nimmo starred as a monk
named Brother Dominic in the BBC's
popular "Oh Brother!" television

Derek Nimmo starred as
Father Dominic in the
BBC's popular "Oh Father!"
television series.

Derek's clerical roles actually started on stage, not television, when he played a clergyman in See How They Run.

Derek went to Quarry Bank School in Liverpool, later well known due to alumnus John Lennon. 

Derek received a special mention in “The Goodies” episode, Wacky Wales, where there was a special team comprised exclusively of ‘Derek Nimmos’ in the Rugby Union game of Ecclesiastical Sevens, which poked fun at Derek’s special religious-oriented roles in television programs such as “Oh Brother!”, “Oh Father!”, and “All Gas and Gaiters”, among others. 

Derek was a regular panel member on the BBC Radio Game Show “Just a Minute.” Dean's JAM website (click here) has a very detailed tribute to Derek's work as a performer, especially on JAM, of which this is a short excerpt:

“[Derek Nimmo] was always a very competitive player, and usually during his time it was he or Clement [Freud] that ended up winning. He didn't resort to the tricks of getting in on the last second or listing that Clement would do, but he was good at detecting the breaches of the rules committed by others, and just as good at not breaching those rules himself.

“Still he is hard to classify, because he was capable of such a variety of styles: surrealistic fantasy, or music hall routine, an angry full throated denunciation or a quiet moment of introspection. He was also capable of the vocal gymnastics of a Kenneth Williams, but always delivered in that delicious fruity English voice of the upper class.”

Derek received many awards, including the 1990 Bedtime After Dinner Speaker of the Year. He was Freman of the City of London. The University of Leicester recognised his enormous contribution to entertainment with an Honorary Degree of Master of Arts in 1996.

Away from the spotlight, Derek Nimmo was an expert on wine and a keen gardener. He also wrote several books on his interests in wine and theatre. Another interest was after dinner speaking, for which he was always in demand.

“Cluedo” (1990) (TV Series) (24 x 30 minute episodes; 1 x 45 minute episode. Colour. Christmas Special episode, December 1990) ...Reverend Green
  ... aka “Clue” (1990)
“Hell’s Bells” (1986) (TV Series) (Comedy; 6 x 30 minute episodes; Colour) ...Dean Selwyn Makepeace
Family Ties Vacation (1985) (TV) Actor
See How They Run (1984) (TV) (Ch.4 TVS/Theatre Of Comedy Productions; Farce; Colour; 90 minutes. A TV version of the stage farce popular since 1945) ...Rev. Arthur Humphrey
An Audience with Mel Brooks (1983) (TV) ...himself   VHS
“Third Time Lucky” (1982) (TV Series) (7 x 30 minute episodes) ...George Hutchenson
“Life Begins at Forty” (1978, 1980) (TV Series) (14 x 30 minute episodes) ...Chris Bunting
“My Honourable Mrs” (1975) (TV Series) (Sitcom; 7 x 30 minute episodes; Colour) ...Henry Prendergast
One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975) ...Lord Edward Southmere  DVD
“Just a Nimmo” (1974-8) (TV series) (BBC2 chat show; 28 editions, 11 Feb 1974-27 Mar 1978) ...himself
“Oh Father!” (1973) (TV Series) (BBC1 comedy; 7 x 30 minute episodes) ...Father Dominic
Sunstruck (1972) ( Australian comedy directed by James Gilbert and starring Harry Secombe as Stanley Evans. 89 minutes, Colour) ...
“If It's Saturday It Must Be Nimmo”
(1970) (TV series) (BBC1 chat show;  9x episodes Oct - Dec 1970) ...himself
Keep 'Em Rolling
(1970) (TV) (BBC sitcom;  1 x 30 minute episode; Colour 11 March 1970. A pilot for “Comedy Playhouse” but no series was developed) ...Reggie Turpin
A Talent for Loving (1969) (an obscure comic western; 110 minutes, Colour) ...
“Oh Brother!” (1968-70) (TV Series) (BBC1 comedy; 19 x 30 minute episodes; 1 x short special. Only 9 episodes are still in existence) ...Brother Dominic  DVD
“Sorry I’m Single” (1967) (TV Series) (Sitcom; 9 x 30 minute episodes) ...David
Casino Royale (1967) (Madcap comedy based on Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel; 126 minutes, Colour) ...Hadley  DVD
  ... aka Charles K. Feldman’s Casino Royale (1967)
“Blanding’s Castle” (1967) (TV Series) ...Frederick
“All Gas and Gaiters” (1966, 1967-71) (TV Series) (B&W 1st 12 eps/Colour, 32 x 30 minute episodes, 1 x short special) ...Rev. Mervyn Noote  DVD
“Comedy Playhouse” (1966) (TV Series) (6th series, episode1: The Bishop Rides Again. Pilot for “All Gas and Gaiters” TV Series) ...Rev. Mervyn Noote
Mister Ten Per Cent (1966) (Comedy about an amateur dramatist who gets his play performed in London's West End. Starring Charlie Drake with Geoge Baker, Annette Andre, John Le Mesurier, and Derek Nimmo. The same plot was used two years later by Mel Brooks in his film, The Producers. 85 minutes) ...Tony
Joey Boy (1965) (WWII comedy. 91 minutes, B&W) ...Lt. Hope
The Liquidator (1965) (A spy comedy/spoof. Color, 105 minutes) ...Martin, codename Fly
The Yellow Hat (1965) (77 minutes, Colour) ...Douglas
“The World of Wooster” (1965) (TV Series) (BBC sitcom; B&W, 20 x 30 minute episodes) ...Richard ‘Bingo’ Little
“The Bed-Sit Girl” (1965) (TV Series) (BBC sitcom; B&W, series 1 only. 6 x 25 minute episodes; 6 x 30 minute episodes. B&W) ...David
Man With A Mission (1965) (TV) (ITV sitcom; B&W, 30 minutes. Another play in ATV's “Six of The Best” series) ...Hope-Weston
The Bargee
(1964) (Comedy; Colour) ...Dr. Scott  VHS
Coast of Skeletons (1964) (drama/African adventure, Colour, 90 minutes) ...Tom Hamilton
Murder Ahoy (1964) (Award-winning Agatha Christie film dir. by George Pollock, staring Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple) ...Sub-Lieutenant Humbert  VHS
The System (1964) (Drama. B&W, 93 minutes) ...James  VHS
  ... aka The Girl-Getters (1966) (USA)
Hot Enough for June (1964) (A cold war spy comedy. Colour, 98 minutes) ...Fred
  ... aka Agent 008 3/4 (1964) (USA: promotional title)
  ... aka Agent 8 3/4 (1964) (USA)
A Hard Day’s Night (1964) (B&W; 89 minutes. Directed by Richard Lester) ...Leslie Jackson (magician)  DVD
The Chars (1963) (TV) (BBC sitcom; B&W. 30 minutes. Another play in the “Comedy Playhouse” series) ...Mr. Thornton
Heavens Above! (1963) ...Director-General’s Assistant  DVD
Tamahine (1963) (Colour; 95 minutes. Directed by Philip Leacock. Starring Nancy Kwan) ...Clove
  ... aka The Natives Are Restless Tonight (UK) (working title)
The Amorous Prawn (1962) (based on the hugely successful West End farce of the same name) ...Pvt. Willie Maltravers (chef)  VHS
  ... aka The Playgirl and the War Minister (1962) (USA)
Go to Blazes (1962) (Comedy. Colour. 83 m inutes) ...Fish Fancier
It’s Trad, Dad! (1961) (Musical comedy dir. by Richard Lester. B&W, 78 minutes) ...Head Waiter
  ... aka Ring-a-Ding Rhythm (1962) (USA)
The Millionairess (1960) ...(uncredited)  DVD
The Magic Tree—A Persian Fantasy (1960) (TV puppet play, BBC, produced by Gordon Murray) ...(voice) (alongside James Beattie, Noel Coleman, Roy Skelton
“A Rubovian Legend”
(1955) (TV Series, 23 episodes starting in 1958 with the 2nd series) ...King Rufus of Rubovia (voice)
The Winkleburg Armourer (1958) (TV puppet play, BBC, produced by Gordon Murray) ...puppet player (alongside Audrey Atterbury, Pamela Binns, Violet Lamb, Noel Coleman, James Beattie, Roy Skelton, David Sutton, Peter Sutton)

Notable TV Guest Appearances
“Just a Minute” playing himself in episode #1.3: 16 August 1994
“Countdown” playing himself in series 13 to 36; making 18 appearances altogether. June 1987 - Aug 1987.
“Wogan” playing himself. The other guests were Elaine Page, Janet Brown and Norman Parkinson, with Kenneth Williams standing in for Wogan as presenter. 21 April 1986 (BBC1) 
“Steptoe and Son” playing himself in episode #4.2: Crossed Swords, 11 October 1965
“Undermind” playing "Homer Benton" in episode #1.8: Puppets of Evil, 26 June 1965
“More Faces of Jim” playing himself in episode #1.2: Matter of Growing Up, 5 July 1963
“Z Cars” playing "Bill Wignall" in episode #2.25: Members Only, 6 March 1963
“Hancock” playing "Gavin" in episode #1.9: The Night Out, 28 February 1963
“Mr. Justice Duncannon” playing "Mr. Elsingham" in episode #1.2: Brief to Counsel, 25 January 1963

Stage (partial)
Why Not Stay For Breakfast? (1975?) (Her Majesty's Theatre, Adelaide, Australia; co-starring Helen Gill) ...
Why Not Stay For Breakfast? (1974) (Apollo Theatre, West End, London; co-starring Katy Manning) ...
Babes in the Wood (1973) (London Palladium; co-starring Edward Woodward) ...
Charlie Girl
(1986) (A musical comedy starring Anna Neagle, Derek Nimmo, Stuart Damon, Christine Holmes) further details known.
Charlie Girl (1965-71) (Adelphi Theatre, London, opened Dec 15th, 1965. A musical comedy starring Anna Neagle, Derek Nimmo, Joe Brown, Gerry (and the Pacemakers) Marsden, etc. The production also went on a world tour, including Australia: Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, opening 25th September 1971, starring Anna Neagle, Derek Nimmo, Johnny Farnham) ...the butler
The Amorous Prawn
(1962) (Satirical comedy/farce. Saville Theatre, West End, London. Long-running success by Anthony Kimmins on which his 1962 film of the same name is based) ...Pvt. Willie Maltravers (chef)
How Say You? (1959) (with Ann Firbank, Kathleen Harrison, A E Matthews. Aldwych Theatre, West End, London) further details known
Duel of Angels
(1958) (Apollo Theatre, West End, London; opened 24 April 1958. Translated and adapted by Christopher Fry from Jean Giraudoux's Pour Lucrèce. Jean-Louis Barrault dir.) ...Joseph
[Vivien Leigh as Paola; Claire Bloom as Lucile; Peter Wyngarde as Count Marcellus; Derek Nimmo as Joseph; Fiona Duncan as Gilly; Basil Hoskins as Armand; Pauline Jameson as Eugenie; Freda Jackson as Barbette; Robin Bailey as Mr. Justice Blanchard; Lawrence Davidson as Clerk of the Court.
(Claire Bloom was later replaced by Ann Todd.)]
Note: Duel of Angels was first presented at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne, 3 March 1958 (Vivien Leigh as Paola, Claire Bloom as Lucile). It was also presented at the New Theatre, Oxford; xxx 1958. After its British tour, it toured the USA (starring Vivien Leigh and Mary Ure), including: Shubert Theater, Boston (1960);  Helen Hayes Theatre, NYC (19 April 1960); the Huntington Hartford Theatre, Hollywood (23 July 1960). During July 12, 1961 to May 16, 1962, Vivien Leigh traveled with the play to Australia and New Zealand: Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland; Latin America: Mexico City, Caracas, Lima, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro.
See How They Run (1964) (Farce. Vaudeville theatre, Strand, London) ...clergyman
Waltz of the Toreadors (year?) (West End, London) ...
???? (1952) (Derek Nimmo's first stage appearance. Hippodrome, Bolton, Lancashire) ...

Radio (partial)

“All Gas and Gaiters”
(1971) (Radio Series) (BBC Radio 4, Derek Nimmo was in the 1st series of 13 episodes only) ...Rev. Mervyn Noote

Notable Radio Guest Appearances

“Just a Minute” (1967) playing himself with a total of 310 appearances, including 307 as a panelist, 1967-1999  CD
“The Clitheroe Kid” (1960s) (Radio Series starring the pint sized Lancashire comedian, Jimmy Clitheroe) (BBC) ...

Derek Nimmo Stage Productions (partial)

It Can Damage Your Health
(year? ) (A Derek Nimmo production in Delhi, India) 
Side by Side by Sondheim (1984) (A Derek Nimmo production which toured the Middle and Far East)

The Shakespeare Review
Nick Herne Books, 1994. 128 pp. ISBN: 1854592521. Based on the RSC's sell-out show, this sparkling anthology of songs and sketches inspired by Shakespeare includes material by Derek Nimmo. Compiles by Christopher Luscombe and Malcolm McKee. (Also available as a CD).
Memorable Dinners - Recollected by the Rich and Rare Quiller Press, 1991. 160pp. Edited by Derek Nimmo. ISBN: 1870948483
Table Talk - A Witty Companion for Winers and Diners
Coronet Books, 1991. 224pp. ISBN: 0340557648
Wonderful Windowboxes Ward Lock, London, 1990. 128pp. ISBN:0706368460 hardcover, ISBN:0706370813 softcover.
As the Actress Said to the Bishop - Star-Studded stories from stage and screen Robson Books, London, 1989. 174pp. ISBN: 0340528958
Up Mount Everest Without a Paddle - An Hilarious Travelling Companion Robson Books, London, 1988. 138pp. ISBN: 0340506105
Not in Front of the Servants - Humour with Class Robson Books, London, 1987. Illustrated with cartoons & sketches from 'Punch', Sir Osbert Lancaster and Thelwell. 171 pp. ISBN: 0340430729
Oh, Come On All Ye Faithful! - A Humorous Church Collection Robson Books, London, 1986. "Heavenly anecdotes, deadly epitaphs and a font-full of vicarious Episcopal trips of the tongue." 160pp.
Shaken and Stirred - Derek Nimmo's Cocktail Companion Panther Books, Granada, 1984. 160pp. ISBN: 0586058621
The Passing of Pilot Officer Prune by Bill Hooper. Foreword by Derek Nimmo.Midas Books, 1975. 96pp.
Nimmo's Choice - A Collection of Cartoons Mowbray, Oxford, 1974. 64pp. Edited by Derek Nimmo. ISBN: 0264660838

Stories From Toytown (1963? ) (By S.G. Hulme Beaman. Side 1: The Arkville Dragon; The Tale of the Magician. Side 2: The Showing Up of Larry the Lamb; The Mayor's Sea Voyage. 33 rpm vinyl LP record.) ...voice (alongside Redvers Kyle, Wilfred Babbage, Dorothy Gordon, Kynaston Reeves, Van Boolen, Sydney Monckton)
The Arkville Dragon: A Toytown Story by S.G. Hulme Beaman (1963) (Adapted and produced by Hendrik Baker. Original music by Johnny Pearson. 45 rpm vinyl EP record, HMV 7EG 8838) ...the Mayor (alongside Redvers Kyle as narrator & Earnest the Policeman, Dorothy Gordon as Larry the Lamb, Wilfred Babbage as Dennis the Dachshund and Albert the Horse, Sydney Monckton as the driver)
The Tale of the Magician: A Toytown Story by S.G. Hulme Beaman (1963 ) (Adapted and produced by Hendrik Baker. Original music by Johnny Pearson. 45 rpm monophonic vinyl EP record, HMV 7EG 8835) ...the Mayor
The Showing up of Larry the Lamb: A Toytown Story by S.G. Hulme Beaman (1963 ) (Adapted and produced by Hendrik Baker. Original music by Johnny Pearson. 45 rpm  monophonic vinyl EP record, HMV 7EG 8336) ...the Mayor
The Mayor's Sea Voyage: A Toytown Story by S.G. Hulme Beaman (1963 ) (Adapted and produced by Hendrik Baker. Original music by Johnny Pearson. 45 rpm  monophonic vinyl EP record, HMV 7EG 8837) ...the Mayor
The Toytown Mystery: A Toytown Story by S.G. Hulme Beaman (1963 ) (Adapted and produced by Hendrik Baker. Original music by Johnny Pearson. 45 rpm  monophonic vinyl EP record, HMV 7EG 8607) ...the Mayor
Tea For Two: A Toytown Story by S.G. Hulme Beaman (1963 ) (Adapted and produced by Hendrik Baker. Original music by Johnny Pearson. 45 rpm  monophonic vinyl EP record, HMV 7EG 86--) ...the Mayor
“Just a Classic Minute: Volume 1” ( ) BBC Radio Collection CD. Four decades of the comedy game show, starring Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Derek Nimmo, Peter Jones, Peter Cook, Stephen Fry, Victoria Wood, Paul Merton.
“Just a Minute” ( ) audio cassette.
“Just a Minute 2” ( ) 120 minutes. audio cassette.
Charlie Girl (1963) (Original Cast LP: Joe Brown ,Anna Neagle, Derek Nimmo, Hy Hazel. LP 33rpm vinyl record BPG 62627 CBS UK)
“The Clitheroe Kid” (1960s) (BBC Radio Collection. 2-cassette audio book. With Jimmy Clitheroe, Peter Sinclair, Patricia Burke, Diana Day, Danny Ross, Harry Bailey, Peter Goodwright, Deryck Guyler, Tony Melody, Derek Nimmo, David Richardson, Brian Trueman, Jack Watson, and Leonard Williams)