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Ken Jones

Actor

Actor

Born: February 20, 1930; Died: February 13, 2014.

Ken Jones, who has died aged 83, was a character actor and stalwart of British television for more than 40 years. He was particularly known for his comedy roles in shows such as The Liver Birds, Porridge, and the now-largely-forgotten Arthur Lowe sit-com The Last of the Baskets.

In Porridge, he played Bernard Ives, known as Horrible Ives because of his habit of crawling up to the prisoners and the guards. He appeared in much of the first series in 1974 but left after one episode of the second series in 1975 to appear in another sitcom for ITV: The Squirrels about the accounts department of a TV rental firm written by Eric Chappell, who would go on to create Rising Damp.

Jones was born in Liverpool and started out his working life as a builder. He then became a sign-writer but was also beginning to explore his love of acting in amateur groups. After meeting Sheila Fay, who would become his wife, they started up their own amateur theatre group and then turned professional at the same time, winning places at RADA.

On graduating, they joined Joan Littlewood's famed Theatre Workshop and by the 1960s Jones was making his first appearances on television.

After small parts in the likes of Coronation Street and Softly, Softly, and episodes of the drama series Armchair Theatre, his big break in comedy came in 1971 with The Last of the Baskets.

Starring Lowe, it featured Jones as a factory worker who unexpectedly inherits an earldom and a mansion. Lowe played the mansion's butler Bodkin.

The show ran for a couple of series, but for Jones it also led to parts in two comedies set in Liverpool.

In The Wackers, he played a father trying to cope with a family divided into Protestant and Catholic, and on Carla Lane's iconic sitcom The Liver Birds, he played the uncle of Beryl, played by Polly James. The part in Porridge came two years later.

Jones always believed Porridge was a success because of the conflict at the heart of the show. "If you get a closed environment like a prison," he said, "and an anarchist such as Fletcher trying to break the system, there's wonderful conflict." Jones also appeared in the film version of Porridge in 1979.

After Porridge, he had many other appearances on television, usually as a guest star. He had a small part in Franco Zeffirelli's television epic Jesus of Nazareth but appeared in many British television series including Z Cars, Peak Practice and Casualty.

He was pre-deceased by his wife.

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