Only Fools and Horses

How Only Fools and Horses legend Buster Merryfield got his big acting break at 64 years old

Only Fools and Horses is something of a national treasure.

The BBC sitcom ran from 1981 to 2003 and has been entertaining fans ever since as we all re-watch old episodes of the Trotter family getting up to no good in increasingly silly attempts to become millionaires and live the high life.

Actor Buster Merryfield joined the show as Uncle Albert in 1985 as a replacement for Lennard Pearce’s Grandad, who suddenly died.

Trying to find a replacement for Grandad would be an impossible task so Buster was introduced as Albert – the brother to Grandad and great uncle to Derek and Rodney Trotter.

He arrived during series four of Only Fools and instantly became a hilarious hindrance to his wheeler-dealers nephews.

Only Fools and Horses
Uncle Albert, Del Boy and Rodney in Only Fools and Horses

And who can forget his unrealistic war stories which became the bane of everyone’s live?

Uncle Albert became one of the most memorable characters of great British comedy – but the actor wasn’t always in the showbiz industry.

Born Harry Merryfield into a working class Battersea family in November 1920, Buster’s childhood was marred by tragedy when his sister Irene died at the age of just eight years old.

He was given his famous nickname of Buster by his grandfather owing to the fact he weighed a colossal nine pounds at birth.

Buster excelled at physical sports and had an exciting career as a child boxing prodigy in the 1930s, being named British Schools Champion in 1936.

At the advent of the Second World War, Buster joined the army where his love for fitness came in handy.

He quickly rose to the rank of jungle warfare instructor before being discharged in 1946.

Suddenly Albert’s “during the war” stories have a more sentimental meaning as the actor was genuinely involved in the conflict.

Buster then spent the majority of his working life as a bank manager spanning over 40 years before he turned his attention to acting at 57 years old.

In 1980, Buster appeared on the television series Hannah for one episode before starring as Professor Challis in The Citadel for two episodes in 1983.

In 1984, he took on the role for one episode of Strangers and Brother before his part as Sir Miles Honeyman in Shroud for a Nightingale.

Only Fools and Horses
Buster Merryfield starred as Uncle Albert until 1996 (Image: Daily Mirror)

One year later he played Sir Joshua Stokes in movie Love Song before his big break at 64 years old in Only Fools and Horses, a role he played until 1996.

When Buster arrived in Peckham as Albert Gladstone Trotter, aka Uncle Albert, in the Strained Relations episode (February 1985) viewers instantly fell in love with him.

His exaggerated stories, quick wit, love for a glass of rum and dedication to get involved with the flogging of hooky gear meant the character slotted in perfectly with the show.

Who can forget when he told Rodney: “Cold? You don’t know the meaning of the word. You should have been with me on the Russian convoys. One night it was so cold the flame on my lighter froze!”

Sadly Buster died in 1999 as a result of a brain tumour aged 78.

The Time On Our Hands Christmas special in 1996 saw the Trotters become millionaires, and it was the last time Del Boy, Rodney and Uncle Albert would ever share the screen.

Buster Merryfield is the perfect example of someone who wasn’t afraid to follow their dreams, despite their age – absolute legend.

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