SMITH OF THE STAR: Why I really have been blessed

Brian Blessed
Brian Blessed
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Fifty years ago Brian Blessed drove Z-Victor 1 onto our TV screens and neither would be the same again.

The son of a Goldthorpe miner Blessed and his character Fancy Smith became household names in a show that attracted audiences of 14 million at its peak.

Blunt, edgy and with a hint of menace, Blessed’s portrayal of the Newtown cop started him on a career that would take him to Hollywood, the heights of the London stage and the top of Everest.

It’s also going to take him into space if all goes to plan.

At the age of 76 the lust for life that burned inside him as a boy in Goldthorpe still lights up his larger-than-life features and powers that knocking-off hooter of a voice. Brian, as they say, is still just Brian.

His conversation swings from the Luftwaffe to Hallam FC, touches on the steel industry, Plusnet, Picasso, Emile Zatopek, Shakespeare, Freddie Truman and the Blessed love of Sheffield.

But not necessarily in that, or any other, order.

“Ah Sheffield!” exclaims the former plasterer who left school at 14 after his father William was injured in a pit accident.

“Sheffield means a lot to me. It was always a magical place and still is. It’s quite a glamorous place and we saw it suffer during the war.

“We could see Sheffield on fire at night, glowing 15 miles away in the distance after another air-raid. I would stand on the bridge near our house and watch and would hear the shrapnel flying past and my dad would be yelling at me to get down out of the way.

“Sheffield defied the Luftwaffe and made the steel for tanks and bridges. That was because of the spirit of Sheffield people.

“They survived it and carried on making steel. Sheffield is a special place.”

But there are some less than happy memories.

“We were always tortured by Hallam FC when I played for Dearne Athletic. We were sixth and Hallam was always the best team in the area along with Norton Woodseats.

“Those teams were as good as Rotherham United in those days, very good sides. I was about 16 and playing inside right for Dearne and I was the captain of our team.”

And on football today?

“I still love it but we need Wednesday and United in the premier League. We need Sheffield on the major football map. The city is crying out for it.”

Next year Brian will attempt to become the oldest man to climb Everest and he’s booked to go into space. “I have completed my space training and I should be going up into orbit at the end of next year,” he said.

“I am also first reserve and I could get the call any day if someone drops out.

“I’m pretty fit. I train every day. I go running and lift weights. I can bench press 400lbs and that’s not bad for a man my age.

“It’s Everest in May or June as part of celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hilary’s climb.”

That’s a lot for a 76-year-old but there’s no stopping him.

“My dad was a miner and I remember him being a tremendous sportsman. He played for Yorkshire Colts and Yorkshire seconds at cricket.

“He taught Fred Trueman how to bowl his cutters and how to hit Aussies in the face. You can always say sorry later, he used to say.

“I’m very proud of my Dad and he lived to be 99. All my uncles lived on into their 90s. We lived on a council estate and the people were the salt of the earth. We had a marvellous time. We had Dick Barton and Wilfred Pickles on the radio and we had two Polish pilots and a Russian stay with us during the war.

“When I went to Rotherham for speech lessons I would go past the blast furnaces and see the men working in the heat and light of the molten metal.

“Sheffield is my favourite city and to see the men working like that, it was an amazing place. It is a city that is so completely alive, a gateway to the Peak District.

“I get to Yorkshire as often as I can. It’s like a great big gulp of fresh air.”

Which is what everyone needs after 10 minutes with the irrepressible Blessed. A true original, a genuine force of nature and one that’s not likely to blow itself out any time soon.

“In five years time I will be climbing the highest mountain on Mars. But no matter what I do the biggest thrill of my life will always be seeing my little brother when he was born.

“I was six years old and my mum said I had to collect milk bottle tops and save them to get a baby brother.

“I got sacks and sacks of them and when he arrived the bottle tops were gone to get Alan my brother.

“When I saw him I couldn’t believe what had happened I thought ‘bloody hell’! have I done that?”

Brian Blessed is currently working with home phone and broadband supplier Plusnet which is advising the nation on how to maintain the summer’s record levels of pride.

Click here for Plusnet details