Goodbye to a national treasure: Broadcaster Bob Holness dies in his sleep, aged 83


By Alanah Eriksen

The nation is in mourning as much-loved broadcaster Bob Holness died today, aged 83.

Bob, best known as the host of the ITV1 quiz Blockbusters, had a career spanning almost 60 years.

A statement released by his family said he 'died peacefully in his sleep early this morning, aged 83, after his health deteriorated following a number of minor strokes over the past few years'.

Farewell: Bob Holness, best known as host of the ITV1 quiz show Blockbusters, has died in his sleep, aged 83

They added: 'Although Bob will be best remembered for being the host of the cult television programme Blockbusters, it should be mentioned Bob was also an accomplished theatre actor and his radio broadcasting career spanned over six decades.

'The famous Pinner resident was beloved by students everywhere for his catchphrase 'I'll have a P, please, Bob'.

Bob, who suffered a number of strokes and has been in a nursing home, leaves his wife Mary, three children and seven grandchildren.

Can I have an E please Bob? The presenter pictured in the 1980s during the show's heyday

Bob was born in Vryheid, South Africa but moved to Kent with his family when he was a child.

He later moved back to South Africa where he received his first job as a radio presenter, and met his wife.

The couple returned to the UK in 1961 and Bob joined the BBC as an announcer on Late Night Extra, initially on the BBC Light Programme and later on BBC Radio 1 and 2.

He also became the second actor to portray James Bond, starring in a radio adaptation of Moonraker in 1956.

Between 1975 and 1985, he was co-presenter with Douglas Cameron of the breakfast-time AM Programme on London's LBC radio station.

His television career was kick-started in 1961 when he became the host of game show Take a Letter.

But his break came in 1983 on Blockbusters which he presented until 1994.

Leading the condolences: Leader of the Opposition Ed Milliband tweeted today

The show saw teenagers collapse in fits of laughter as they asked the lovable host 'for an E please Bob'.

The arrival of dance drug Ecstasy on the rave scene saw him regularly asked for an E by his student contestants.

One mark of his popularity was the widespread urban myth, believed by many, that Holness played the trademark saxophone solo on the Gerry Rafferty hit Baker Street.

It is believed to have been started as a spoof by music paper NME in 1990.

He returned to television a year later, hosting Yorkshire Television's gameshow Raise the Roof before becoming the chairman of a revived Call My Bluff for the BBC.

In 2004, he appeared on one episode of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway.
His health began to deteriorate in the 1990s after he suffered a mini-stroke and a more severe attack in 2002 led to temporary paralysis.

Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband had led tributes to the broadcaster
He wrote on Twitter: 'Sad to hear that Bob Holness has died. A generation will remember him fondly from Blockbusters.'

Broadcaster Emma Freud wrote: 'One of my first interviewees. Gorgeous man. RIP.'

BBC Radio 4 presenter Martha Kearney, said that she had worked with him on the LBC AM Bob and Doug show and described him as a 'real gent'.

Left behind: Bob with his wife Mary, with whom he had three children