Buster Merryfield: The Only Fools and Horses legend whose real life was incredibly different to his on-screen character

Richard Bevan
Richard Bevan
4 Min Read

Buster Merryfield, a name synonymous with the British comedy institution ‘Only Fools and Horses’, remains a heart-warming emblem of golden television nostalgia. Portraying the lovable and often ludicrous Uncle Albert, Buster regaled millions with his fanciful war stories and thick cockney dialect, etching an indelible mark on the hearts of Brits nationwide. But, hold your horses; the real life of Buster Merryfield bore minimal resemblance to his on-screen alter ego.

Born in Battersea, South London, Merryfield, like Uncle Albert, was a patriot, honourably serving his country during World War II. His credentials did have one obvious similarity to Uncle Albert’s, as he boxed in the army and proved his mettle, embodying true British grit and determination.

A young Buster Merryfield preparing for a boxing match

However, that’s where the similarities end. Unlike his bearded, beanie-clad on-screen persona, Merryfield was a highly successful bank manager, accustomed to a life of routine and order. A far cry from the shenanigans at Nelson Mandela House, Merryfield was always more comfortable amidst ledgers and balance sheets than the misadventures of the Trotter clan. His early retirement led him to the world of amateur dramatics, swapping loan applications for scripts and branch meetings for auditions.

A connoisseur of the arts, Merryfield was as cultured as they come. A man of eloquence, he was nothing like the bumbling, raucous Albert. He boasted an articulate and refined accent, starkly contrasting Uncle Albert’s robust Cockney twang. His choice to abstain from alcohol and cigarettes was also a far cry from Albert’s indulgence in a rum at the Nag’s Head.

Buster’s character Uncle Albert is watched by millions of people.

John Sullivan spotted Merryfield’s talent in a local play, leading to his iconic role in ‘Only Fools and Horses’. He became the nation’s Uncle Albert, an endearing mess of a man capable of bringing warmth and laughter to the coldest of nights. However, behind the scenes, Merryfield’s life remained a tapestry of simplicity and elegance, a testament to his dedication to craft, not the limelight.

Since his passing in 1999, Buster Merryfield’s legacy lives on. Uncle Albert continues to elicit chuckles and titters from old and new audiences, his escapades enshrined in British comedy lore. Buster’s life – a fascinating tale of contrasts – shines through Albert, a fitting testament to a man who embraced the absurd and poignant alike.

So here’s to you, Buster Merryfield, British comedy legend, bank manager, cultured gentleman and forever our ‘Uncle Albert’. Or as Del Boy affectionately nicknamed you, ‘Captain Birdseye’, we raise a glass to your memory. You may have left the stage, but your laughter echoes on, touching millions and ensuring that your legacy will never be ‘during the war.’ Thank you, Buster, for all the laughs and heartwarming moments you’ve bestowed upon us.

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