Lynda Bellingham, who has died aged 66, played many roles during her five-decade professional career, but became synonymous with one. "Being a mum making gravy was not quite how I had seen my career advancing," she said once.
But between 1983 and 1999 that's what she did in 42 "episodes" of an award-winning TV ad. Since the early 1980s, her name was rarely mentioned in print without it being prefaced with "Oxo mum". Her performances were reportedly responsible for a 10 per cent increase in stock cube sales.
During her career, though, she starred on TV as the vet's wife Helen Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small in the 1980s and as one of two divorcees trying to forge a relationship in the 1990s sitcom Second Thoughts, opposite James Bolam. On stage she was best known for playing the lead in a touring production of Calendar Girls between 2008 and 2012.
But being typecast in the role of, as she put it in her autobiography, “the nation’s favourite mum”, wasn’t the only reason she missed out on roles that could have sent her career in a different direction. Her friend the writer
Lynda La Plante
once rang to ask her if she was interested in playing a detective for television. Too busy with sitcom and advertising jobs, she turned down the chance to play DI Jane Tennison, later taken by
She was born Meredith Lee Hughes in Montreal, Quebec. Her Canadian birth mother, Marjorie Hughes, gave her daughter up for adoption to an English couple who were visiting Canada but returned to Britain and raised her as Lynda on their farm in Buckinghamshire, with their two biological daughters, Barbara and Jean.
Bellingham’s image as Britain’s favourite mum stood in strong contrast to the reality of her first two disastrous marriages, as she detailed in her autobiography. In 2008, she married for a third time, to Michael Pattemore, with whom she later ran a property business.
She was awarded an OBE in 2014. She is survived by her husband and two sons, Michael and Robbie, from her second marriage.