OVER the past 50 years several top actors have fallen in love with the Isle of Wight and have moved here or bought property.

These have included Celia Imrie, Ian Bannen, Reginald Marsh, Julian Wadham, Jack Douglas, Michael Sheard, David Calder, Benedict Cumberbatch, Melvyn Hayes and Geoffrey Hughes.

Scroll through our gallery of pictures above to see more of Geoffrey getting involved in Isle of Wight life...

Geoffrey's television credits were unbelievable. In four hit series alone he made over 300 appearances. Who can forget Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street, Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances, Twiggy from The Royle Family and Vernon Scripps from Heartbeat.

Isle of Wight County Press: Geoffrey Hughes in Coronation Street. Picture: John Hannam.

Geoffrey Hughes with Julie Goodyear (aka Bet Lynch) in Coronation Street. Picture courtesy of John Hannam.

Then there were movies like The Virgin Soldiers, The Bofors Gun, Yellow Submarine, as the voice of Paul McCartney, and the daring television series Curry and Chips, which is never repeated today.

Geoffrey had plenty to boast about but never did. You had to prise stories out of him. He was certainly not an acting luvvie and was never one of the showbiz set. He was proud of his work — and that’s just what it was. He loved meeting genuine Islanders and listening to their stories.

In fact, after moving to the Isle of Wight he turned down returning to Coronation Street and Heartbeat. They tried to tempt him with big money but he always said “I don’t want to go back to the north island.”

Geoffrey had a boat moored in a Cowes boatyard before he moved here permanently. I can remember writing him a letter c/o the yard and sometime later found a surprise message on my phone to say he was now living here and would be pleased to see me. We met quite a few times after that.

During his remarkable acting career he became one of the most famous faces in Britain. Originally, Geoffrey was given a one play contract at a Stoke repertory theatre.

When the assistant stage manager broke his arm the young actor was asked to stay on. That quickly led to his West End debut. He also learnt how to project his voice to reach all parts of theatres.

At the age of 17 he joined the cast of Lionel Bart’s hit musical Maggie May. That led him to early television appearances in Z Cars, The Likely Lads and Dad’s Army. Throughout his television and movie career he loved to return to live stage acting. These included a London stage season in Run For Your Wife and tours of Australia.

The success of Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street in a way typecast Geoffrey and this was not unexpected. He told me once: “It was said that I had turned slobbery into an art form.”

In Keeping Up Appearances, Onslow was the most contented character. Give him a beer and a bacon sandwich and he was more than happy.

Twiggy in The Royle Family found him a new generation of fans. The slobby image was still there but the humour was aimed at a younger audience. The redecorating scene for baby David’s christening has been played so many times. I think they made it up as they went along.

He did smarten up for his portrayal of Vernon Scripps in Heartbeat. For a while he worked for a solid 48 weeks a year filming 26 episodes of the popular series.

Isle of Wight County Press: Geoffrey Hughes in Heartbeat. Picture: John Hannam.

Geoffrey Hughes as Vernon Scripps in Heartbeat. Picture courtesy of John Hannam.

I can remember being so proud of Geoffrey and very nervous for him, when he was the on-screen narrator for a live television production of the Liverpool Nativity performed in the streets of the city lined by thousands of people. He never put a foot wrong in several hours of transmission. He proved what a supreme professional he was.

In 2003 Geoffrey and his lovely wife Sue, another who was always far removed from the glitzy world of showbiz, bought 23 acres of woodland on the outskirts of Newport, without even looking at it.

With the guidance of experts, particularly Danny Horne, the plantation was regenerated to restore the woods. That led to a successful Isle of Wight business.

Geoffrey was always keen to help local charities and on two occasions he was the star guest at the Island Amateur Theatre Awards.

Geoffrey met one of his own heroes, another Islander at the time, when he saw the Shadows original electric bass player Jet Harris in a Southampton hospital. They were both outside in wheelchairs, after operations, having a crafty smoke.

That chance meeting led to a new friendship.

Both admitted they would love to have reversed the roles. Geoffrey always fancied playing in the Shadows and Jet would have loved to have been a top actor. Sadly, both are no longer with us.

Geoffrey’s funeral service in 2012 was such an inspirational occasion and you could sense the genuine love for him. Local friends were sat alongside Heartbeat actors Tricia Penrose (Gina the barmaid) and Peter Benson (Bernard Scripps). Live music was provided by members of his favourite band, the Fairport Convention.

Many Islanders were bemused by his very close friendship with the former volatile local footballer, house builder and pony breeder Brian Morey. It was quite simply that they both had one thing in common and had never forgotten. They were both council house boys and were very proud of it. Geoffrey’s was in Liverpool and Brian’s in Gunville.

Geoffrey was never happier in the latter years of his life than speeding around his land and the Lavender Farm on his quad bike. Stirling Moss would have been proud of him.

Geoffrey Hughes is sadly gone but certainly not forgotten.

Like reading stories about the Isle of Wight in bygone days? Click here to visit our Looking Back section.