‘On the Buses’ actor Stephen Lewis remembered at funeral
A double-decker bus marking east London-born actor Stephen Lewis’s most famous role was among the floral tributes at his funeral.
The service on Tuesday was attended by the only surviving star of the hit show On The Buses, Anna Karen, who paid tribute to a “very funny man”.
She said: “He’ll be very sadly missed. He was an extremely talented and very funny man and wonderful to work with.”
Catholic actor Lewis, best known for his role as Inspector Cyril “Blakey” Blake in the sitcom, was laid to rest after a service at Our Lady of Lourdes RC Church in Wanstead.
The service, attended by more than 100 mourners including family, friends and fans, was led by Father Martin O’Connor.
Hymns included Be Still My Soul, to a melody from Finlandia by Sibelius, and Guide Me O Thy Great Redeemer.
His great-niece Rebecca gave a reading and a eulogy to the actor was given by the wife of his nephew Peter.
She said: “He was a kind and generous man. He was writing up until recently and loved to sing snatches of old musical songs, laughing at the plays on words.
“He was always happy to have his picture taken and chat to people.”
She told of how, despite his age, he would jump at the chance to go on family trips. She added: “He never wanted days out to end. And he would be chuckling at the attention now.”
The order of service featured four pictures of Lewis, including one of him as “Blakey” in full cry, pointing his finger in fury as he is provoked by the antics of bus driver Stan Butler (Reg Varney) and conductor Jack Harper (Bob Grant).
The others showed him at different stages in his life, and the line: “Remembered for the laughter he brought.”
Val Buck, 64, a Eucharistic Minister at Our Lady of Lourdes, who took communion to the actor, said he was a “lovely man”.
“He was so warm. He told me all about his life. He was really warm and kind.”
She also said Lewis loved to repeat his famous phrases from On The Buses.
The actor’s coffin was carried out of the church to the sound of Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again before a burial at St Patrick’s Cemetery.
Speaking outside the church, staff from the nursing home where he lived told of how the star always had a miniature model of a bus with him and was happy to repeat his famous catchphrase ‘I hate you Butler’.
Home manager Rashid Ebrahimkhan said: “He used to have a little Dinky tour bus either in his pocket or in his wheelchair.
“And he would always say ‘I hate you Butler’. He loved his sister too – they really were inseparable.”
Lewis, born in Poplar, east London, in 1926, was the son of Richard Lewis, a stoker in the Royal Navy, and his wife Elizabeth. Heworked as a bricklayer, electrician’s mate and carpenter and also joined the Merchant Navy before first treading the boards at the Theatre Royal in Stratford.
He went on to star in several plays, and made his West End debut in The Hostage in 1958.
His television roles also included Harry Lambert in Oh, Doctor Beeching!, as Royston Flagg in Rep, and Clem “Smiler” Hemmingway in Last Of The Summer Wine.
He died aged 88 on 12th August at Cambridge Nursing Home in Wanstead, where he lived with his sister, Connie Christopher.