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Broadcaster Nicholas Parsons dies aged 96

PUBLISHED: 11:27 28 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:44 28 January 2020

Nicholas Parsons, who has been nominated one of Britain's top ten tie men of 1975. He is pictured opening Garlands new menswear department. Date: 16 Apr 1975. Picture: Archant Library

Nicholas Parsons, who has been nominated one of Britain's top ten tie men of 1975. He is pictured opening Garlands new menswear department. Date: 16 Apr 1975. Picture: Archant Library

Archant

Broadcaster Nicholas Parsons has died at the age of 96.

Nicholas Parsons at the Jarrolds literary lunch.
Photo: Bill SmithNicholas Parsons at the Jarrolds literary lunch. Photo: Bill Smith

He was well known for presenting the Anglia TV quiz show Sale of the Century, which was filmed in Norwich and coined the phrase "and now from Norwich, it's the quiz of the week."

Described as a true veteran of the stage, screen and airwaves his career spanned more than half a century.

A statement issued by his agent Jean Diamond on Tuesday, on behalf of his family, said: "Nicholas passed away in the early hours of the 28th of January after a short illness at the age of 96. He was with his beloved family who will miss him enormously and who wish to thank the wonderful staff at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital."

Mr Parsons, who lived near Eye, was also the host of BBC Radio 4's Just a Minute since its first broadcast in December 1967, never missing an episode until June 2018.

Nicholas Parsons with his Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).  The Just a Minute host has died aged 96 after a short illness. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA WireNicholas Parsons with his Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). The Just a Minute host has died aged 96 after a short illness. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

He was born on October 10 1923, in Grantham, Lincolnshire, where his father was GP to the family of Baroness Thatcher.

After studying at St Paul's School in London, he headed to Clydebank as an apprentice engineer, despite his own hopes of becoming an actor.

He found TV fame appearing with comic Arthur Haynes in his ITV show in the early 1960s, and he was also a regular on The Benny Hill Show.

During his career he would star on the West End stage in Stephen Sondheim's musical Into The Woods, and was a regular guest on television and radio comedy shows.

A party of the Cromer British Legion are seen as past of the audience in Saturday's quiz show with Nicholas Parsons, Sale of the Century host. Photo: Archant LibraryA party of the Cromer British Legion are seen as past of the audience in Saturday's quiz show with Nicholas Parsons, Sale of the Century host. Photo: Archant Library

He was appointed officer of the order of the British Empire in 2004 for his service to broadcasting. He was later made commander of the order of the British empire for services to children's charities.

Among his many charitable commitments, he had a long association with the Grand Order of Water Rats and the Lord's Taverners, for which he has served as president.

Parsons said he was "flattered and delighted" to be awarded a CBE for his charitable work.

He said at the time that he would save celebrations for his day at the palace, joking that his 90th had been enthusiastically marked.

Nicholas Parsons on the set of Sale of the Century. Photo: Archant LibraryNicholas Parsons on the set of Sale of the Century. Photo: Archant Library

In 2019 Parsons was give a Broadcasting Press Guild (BPG) award for his outstanding contribution to broadcasting.

Norfolk actor Stephen Fry tweeted: "Oh no. Nicholas Parsons gone? He ruled Just a Minute for Just a Lifetime. A stunning achievement: never scripted, always immaculate.

"From comedian's sidekick to great institution, via Sale of the Century & much more. Unrivalled continuity, professionalism & commitment. Farewell x."

Julia McKenzie, creative director at BBC Studios Audio which produces Just a Minute, said: "Nicholas was such a smart and passionate man who cared deeply about his radio show and Radio 4 and its devoted listeners. He was utterly charming and faultlessly professional.

Nicholas Parsons, compere of Sale of the Century is famous for his bargains on the show. Here he is with the nicest bargain to date: lovely Dianne Greaves, the new hostess on the show. Dated: 29th Decmeber 1972. Photo: Archant LibraryNicholas Parsons, compere of Sale of the Century is famous for his bargains on the show. Here he is with the nicest bargain to date: lovely Dianne Greaves, the new hostess on the show. Dated: 29th Decmeber 1972. Photo: Archant Library

"He was funny and kind in person and wonderful company. I can't really believe he is gone today, he seemed indestructible. His legacy will live on with over 50 years of laughter-filled shows and the lasting friendships he made through his extraordinary career in show business.

"My thoughts are very much with Annie, his beloved wife and constant support and companion who attended every recording, and the rest of his family. Nicholas, you dear man, what a full life you lived - you really did bring much wit and joy to us all and we thank you for that - we miss you."

r Nicholas Parsons is made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II during an Investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wirer Nicholas Parsons is made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II during an Investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Nicholas Parsons attending a tribute lunch for Graham Norton hosted by The Lady Taverners at the Dorchester Hotel, London.d.  PA Photo. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA WireNicholas Parsons attending a tribute lunch for Graham Norton hosted by The Lady Taverners at the Dorchester Hotel, London.d. PA Photo. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Just a Minute host Nicholas Parsons has died aged 96 after a short illness, his agent said. Photo: Ian West/PA WireJust a Minute host Nicholas Parsons has died aged 96 after a short illness, his agent said. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire

Nicholas Parsons and Dora Bryan are set for seven weeks of fun as Dick Whittington open the new panto season at Norwich Theatre Royal, 15th December 1993. Picture: Archant LibraryNicholas Parsons and Dora Bryan are set for seven weeks of fun as Dick Whittington open the new panto season at Norwich Theatre Royal, 15th December 1993. Picture: Archant Library

Nicholas Parsons teams up with Norwich Town Crier David Bullock at the Mustard Shop in Norwich for the launch of the commemorative mustard pot to the mark Norwich 800, 17th May 1994. Picture: Archant LibraryNicholas Parsons teams up with Norwich Town Crier David Bullock at the Mustard Shop in Norwich for the launch of the commemorative mustard pot to the mark Norwich 800, 17th May 1994. Picture: Archant Library

The minutes ticked way for the contestants during recording of Radio 4's panel game Just A Minute which visited the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich. On the panel were Tony Hawks, Hugh Dennis, Clement Freud and Norfolk's own Kit Hesketh-Harvey, 17th October 1993. Picture: Archant LibraryThe minutes ticked way for the contestants during recording of Radio 4's panel game Just A Minute which visited the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich. On the panel were Tony Hawks, Hugh Dennis, Clement Freud and Norfolk's own Kit Hesketh-Harvey, 17th October 1993. Picture: Archant Library

Nicholas Parsons, of Sale of the Century, making attempting to smash his own non-stop talking world record for the Guinesss Book of Records. He beat it by making the longest after-dinner speech - just over seven hours. Here Nicholas and Sale of the Century hostesses Sneh Gupta and Tina Robinson are helping to launch a nationwide attempt to knit the biggest blanket in the world to raise money for Action Research for the Crippled Children. Photo: Archant LibraryNicholas Parsons, of Sale of the Century, making attempting to smash his own non-stop talking world record for the Guinesss Book of Records. He beat it by making the longest after-dinner speech - just over seven hours. Here Nicholas and Sale of the Century hostesses Sneh Gupta and Tina Robinson are helping to launch a nationwide attempt to knit the biggest blanket in the world to raise money for Action Research for the Crippled Children. Photo: Archant Library

Nicholas Parsons, who has been nominated one of Britain's top ten tie men of 1975. He is pictured opening Garlands new menswear department.  Norwich.    taken 15th April 1975    c11846.Nicholas Parsons, who has been nominated one of Britain's top ten tie men of 1975. He is pictured opening Garlands new menswear department. Norwich. taken 15th April 1975 c11846.

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