Only Fools and Horses star John Challis dies aged 79

·3-min read
Only Fools and Horses star John Challis dies aged 79

Only Fools And Horses star John Challis has died from cancer at the age of 79, his family has said.

He was best-known for his portrayal of unscrupulous second-hand car dealer Boycie in the beloved sitcom, alongside Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

He cancelled a 30-date speaking tour earlier this month after only one appearance due to ill health.

A statement from his family said: “It is with heavy hearts that we bring you such sad news.

“Our dear friend and yours, John Challis, has died peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer.

“He will always be loved for being ‘Boycie’ and leaves a great legacy of work that will continue to bring pleasure and smiles for many years to come.

Sue Holderness who played Marlene and actor John Challis who played Boycie in ‘Only Fools and Horse (PA)
Sue Holderness who played Marlene and actor John Challis who played Boycie in ‘Only Fools and Horse (PA)

“Please respect the privacy of John’s family and friends at this difficult time, and be assured that in the future there will be an occasion to celebrate John’s life – when everyone will be welcome to come along.”

Challis played Terrance Aubrey Boyce in Only Fools And Horses from 1981 to 2003, as well as in Boycie-focused spin-off show The Green Green Grass.

He recently became an honorary citizen of Serbia where the BBC sitcom remains hugely popular.

Challis made the documentary Boycie In Belgrade, exploring why the show was so beloved in the Balkan country.

Boycie, a cigar-smoking businessman with a mocking laugh, was married to the feisty Marlene – played by Sue Holderness – and regularly butted heads with Sir David’s Del Boy.

Challis was also known for playing Monty Staines in ITV sitcom Benidorm.

His family have requested that instead of flowers, donations are made to his favoured animal charities – Cuan Wildlife Rescue, Tusk and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Tributes poured in on Sunday for Challis, including from his co-star David Jason.

Sir David, who played Derek “Del Boy” Trotter, said in a statement: “It is with much sadness to hear that John Challis, a dear friend, has passed away.

“He was a wonderful actor, a gentleman in the true sense of the word and I know he will be missed by so many.”

He said Boycie was “a character so well loved by the many fans of that show so I am pleased that he witnessed the outpouring of admiration recently shown for the 40th anniversary of the first episode in 1981.

“I send my love and condolences to his wife, Carol.”

Sue Holderness, who played his on screen wife Marlene, said in a statement: “Marlene without Boycie – it’s unthinkable.

“John Challis was my partner on screen and stage for 36 years and my beloved friend. R.I.P. darling John.

“I will miss you every day.”

The Three Degrees singer Sheila Ferguson posted a picture of herself with Challis on Twitter as she described herself as “heartbroken”.

She said: “I’ve been waiting for this for a few days now.

“It is with great sadness that I tell you that my dear friend, John Challis (Boycie from OFAH) has just passed.

“I’ve been in touch with his wife, Carol, who is obviously heartbroken, as am I. Much love, S.”

‘Allo ‘Allo! actress Vicki Michelle said on Twitter: “Shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Wonderful John Challis such a fabulous man. Loved by the Nation. Condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Actress Crissy Rock, who appeared in Benidorm with Challis, tweeted: “I am heartbroken to hear the news that the legendary actor @BeingBoycie has sadly passed away.

“John you were a true gentleman and always so loving and supportive towards me. I am thinking of your family and close friends at this hard time. Rest well. Crissy xx.”

In tribute to their long-term fan, Somerset County Cricket Club shared a video filmed with Challis earlier this year in which he comically announced the extension of a player’s contract.

The club tweeted: “Somerset County Cricket Club are extremely saddened to hear about the passing of long term supporter John Challis.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

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