Nicholas Parsons: ‘Broadcasting legend’ dies at 96 after short illness

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Media captionDavid Sillito takes a look back at the career of Nicholas Parsons

Broadcaster Nicholas Parsons has died at the age of 96 after a short illness, his agent has confirmed.

Parsons had hosted Radio 4’s Just A Minute since its inception in 1967.

“Nicholas passed away in the early hours of the 28th of January,” said a statement issued by his agent Jean Diamond.

“He was with his beloved family who will miss him enormously and who wish to thank the wonderful staff at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital.”

BBC Radio 4’s Just A Minute is a long-running and popular panel game where guests are asked to speak for a full minute on a single subject without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

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Media captionBBC director general Tony Hall: “Nicholas Parsons was a legend”

Parsons presented his last programme on 23 September last year. Radio 4 has announced it will broadcast a tribute to Parsons at 18:30 GMT on Tuesday.

He also appeared on the Benny Hill Show for several years after joining in 1969 and also fronted ITV game show Sale of the Century.

His other TV appearances include The Comic Strip Presents and Have I Got News For You.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Nicholas Parsons was made a CBE in 2014

BBC director general Tony Hall said: “Very few people have done so much to entertain audiences over the decades, and no one deserves to be called a broadcasting legend more than Nicholas Parsons.

“His charm, inventive intellect and ability to create laughs were unsurpassed. Our thoughts are with his family and all who knew him.”

Graham Norton led the tributes on social media, writing: “The sound of the final whistle. Nicholas Parsons was truly the kindest and most generous person I’ve ever worked with.

“His continued delight at being a part of showbusiness should be an inspiration to us all! Huge love to his wife Annie and his whole family.”

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Media caption“The subject is… Nicholas Parsons”: That time when the Just A Minute contestants had to speak about the host

Paul Merton, who worked with Parsons on Just A Minute, said in a statement: “He was always upbeat, and loved to work. He gave 100% to everything he did.

“Nicholas was the embodiment of Just A Minute, and his chairmanship was always very fair and very honest.

“I will miss him greatly as a friend, particularly as I thought he would be around forever.”

Stephen Fry tweeted: “He ruled Just A Minute for Just a Lifetime. A stunning achievement: never scripted, always immaculate. From comedian’s sidekick to great institution, via Sale of the Century and much more. Unrivalled continuity, professionalism and commitment. Farewell x.”

A life in broadcasting

Image copyright Anglia Television
Image caption Parsons also presented Sale of the Century, which attracted 20 million viewers

Christopher Nicholas Parsons was born on 10 October 1923 in Grantham, Lincolnshire, the son of a GP.

He described himself in his autobiography as “the unconventional child of conventional parents”.

Always neatly coiffed and invariably immaculate in blazer and flannels, Parsons’ smooth tones on Just A Minute and, more particularly, his sugary image on Sale of the Century, made him a dapper reminder of a bygone age and a ripe target for other comedians.

Just A Minute panellist Gyles Brandreth described it as “the end of an era”.

“Nicholas Parsons was such a lovely man,” he wrote on Twitter. “And so versatile: actor, entertainer, writer, TV star & radio host without equal, but for me, most of all, friend. I knew him for more than 50 years: he was simply the best.”

Image caption Parsons and Just A Minute panellist Paul Merton celebrated the show’s 50th birthday in 2017

Broadcaster Andrew Neil added: “So sad to learn of the death of Nicholas Parsons, though at 96 it was a pretty impressive innings.

“A more friendly, generous, polite and solicitous person you could not hope to meet.”

Mohit Bakaya, controller of BBC Radio 4, said: “Nicholas Parsons was one of the greats, a first class broadcaster and an icon in the world of British comedy.

“Nicholas always brought his sharp wit, brilliant poise and warmth to everything he did – but particularly as host of Just A Minute where his excellence shone in each episode without hesitation, deviation or repetition.”

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