August 22 2014
By Suman Bhuchar
He appeared in both ‘Coronation Street’ and ‘Eastenders’ and was a fine actor, and is probably best known for his leading role in the ITV comedy, ‘Surgical Spirit’…
IT IS ALWAYS sad to hear about the death of any Asian actor, especially those who have been pioneers in contributing to the cultural landscape of Britain through their work and are unsung heroes.
Lyndam Gregory, 59, passed away on July 15, 2014 after suffering from lung cancer.
A quiet, well-mannered gentleman, his funeral was held at Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip on August 1, 2014, where family and friends paid tribute to the life of this unassuming modest actor, who through his sheer application leaves behind a body of work that contributed to the colourful representation of British Asians in UK.
Gregory, who hailed from an Anglo-Indian background, was born in Darjeeling, India to a Burmese mother and an Anglo-Indian father. He grew up in Kolkata (Calcutta then), and came to Britain as a young boy along with his parents and his brother.
He trained at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in South Kensingston and his first professional acting role was in “The Blue Monster” at the Arts Theatre near Leicester Square in London.
Actress Shelley King – (another Anglo Indian, who is currently playing Yasmeen Nazir in ‘Coronation Street‘ and is the mother of the Jimi Mistry character, Kal) – who was also at Webber Douglas, but in her last year, remembered: “We were in a musical called, ‘Company’ which, was quite popular and I played a character called, Joanna.
“Lyndam was my ‘follow spot operator’ which meant that he had a big spotlight and used to follow me in all my songs. He often joked ‘your professional life is in my hands, Shelley’. They weren’t a lot of brown actors around, at the time,” she added, “so I was quite shocked to see Lyndam”.
This good looking youngster managed to get into “Coronation Street” well before King, playing the role of the dodgy Sammy ‘Handbag’ Patel from December 1982 to January 1983.
They did appear together in an episode of the Channel 4 sitcom, “Tandoori Nights” (Sage Struck, 1987) as well as in the play, “River on Fire” (2000/2001) by Kali Theatre Company.
However, Lyndam’s first appearance on television was in an episode of “Rumpole of the Bailey” in 1979, but, he really came into his own in the ITV comedy, “Surgical Spirit” playing a doctor, Simon Field in 23 episodes from 1989-1992.
On October 17 1995, he made his appearance on the BBC soap, “Eastenders“, as Gopal ‘Guppy’ Sharma, an Asian rag trader trying to sell fake designer clothes to market trader, Geeta (played by Shobu Kapoor), as well as wooing her with buying her flowers, while at the same time, he was her sister, Meena’s fiancé.
Sudha Bhuchar, who played Meena (and is artistic director of Tamasha Theatre), explained that, “whenever you worked with him you had to sign his book and say you worked with him. He would say ‘write something’ and we’d all be going, ‘why, we worked with you, you don’t need to write it’, but he always insisted and we did. I feel that somewhere there lurks a good biography.”
Later, Gregory appeared in the 2001 revival of the Tamasha musical, “Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings and a Funeral“, where he had the chance to display his song and dance skills.
Theatre was one of his passions, said Norma Dixit, who appeared with Gregory in the 1987 production of “The Lost Ring” (an adaptation of the Sanskrit play, ‘Sakuntala‘ by Kalidas) at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, directed by Jeff Teare.
Gregory played the lead role of the King, while Kristine Landon-Smith (who later was co-artistic director of Tamasha Theatre) played the eponymous heroine, Sakuntala.
Dixit, who played several characters, remembered: “Lyndam was a kind man and a very considerate actor. He had a great sense of humour, particularly during rehearsals, and we often shared a joke or two. He had the leading male role in the production whilst I had three small roles and he often said he couldn’t remember what my actual name was; he also joked that my ‘servant’ was loftier than his king. ‘The natural order’ I replied to which he laughed, appreciating the joke. He will be missed”.
Bhaskar Patel, who is currently in ITV soap, “Emmerdale” as Rishi Sharma recalled his first meeting with Gregory, which turned into a lifelong friendship.
“My first acting job where I got my Equity card was with Lyndam in 1981, I did a BBC ‘Play for Today’, written by H.O. Nazareth called, ‘The Garland‘, and directed by Horace Ove.” (In this play, Lyndam played Roy, a mixed race teenager who falls in love with a Muslim girl, Amina, played by Shreela Ghosh).
Patel went on to say that after initially meeting Gregory, “he always kept giving my name to casting directors” because if anyone was looking for an Asian actor, who could speak English as well as other Asian languages, he always recommended me.
They went on to do a lot of ‘role play’ as well as several BBC Radio plays together, especially those by John Masters.
Gregory was part of the Radio Drama Company (RDC), as was actress Nina Wadia. She paid tribute revealing that in the early days she had gone to audition for some work with the RDC, but ended up somehow being late, so thought she had missed her chance. However, as always, Lyndam saved the day when he offered to read with her.
Another highlight was when he played Usha Franks (nėe Gupta’s) ex-boyfriend, Ashok, in the BBC Radio 4 long running farming drama, “The Archers“.
Of course, there were tough times and as his friend and co-actor, Harmej Kalirai recalls that their bread and butter was being able to get ‘role play’ work playing ‘pretend patients’ for young graduates sitting exams for the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Lyndam had a fine voice and impeccable manners, and he also narrated several audio books including Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children” and “Six Suspects” by Vikas Swarup.
He was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer (as a non-smoker) in July 2013 and he spent the last year being close to his family and friends. Lyndam leaves behind a wife, Christine, and daughter, Dominique. Donations have been requested to Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre (registered charity 1053338) which can be made through Just Giving.”
There is a short video montage of Lyndam Gregory on Youtube.
You can donate here https://www.justgiving.com/remember/138056/Lyndam-Gregory