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Archers star's amateur roots

By gavin jones  |  Posted: February 13, 2013

Chris Gittins as Kwang.

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 A RECENT piece on Stourbridge Operatic Society has caught the attention of Oxford reader Pauline Beighton, who spotted a familiar name amongst the cast of their 1934 production. Pauline writes: "Regarding the article 'When the Three Musketeers came to Stourbridge Town Hall' in Bugle 1064, 17th January.

"Is the Chris Gittins who took the part of Cardinal Richelieu the same Chris Gittins who for many years played Walter Gabriel in BBC Radio's The Archers? I used to be allowed to stay up and listen to The Archers with my grandparents and parents in Farm Road, Langley Green."

The Archers' stalwart was indeed a Stourbridge man, who lived for many years in Borough Crescent, just off South Road in his home town. He died in 1988, having played tenant farmer Walter Gabriel since the early nineteen- fifties, right up to his death, aged 86. His character's oft-used 'My old pal, my old beauty' was one of the best known phrases in the long-running series.

Being born just after the turn of the century, Chris Gittins was of the right age and in the right place to be the very same actor who trod the boards with Stourbridge Operatic Society; and Gittins is not that common a surname.

Frustratingly, with The Archers being a radio show the cast aren't especially recognisable from photos, and the Stourbridge Operatic pictures are from a very long time ago. That said, we're pretty sure this is the same man; can anyone confirm that the young amateur did indeed go on to become the national treasure known as Walter Gabriel?

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