103-year-old June Spencer bids farewell to Ambridge

After more than 70 years as Peggy Woolley, June Spencer retires from The Archers


BBC Radio 4

The Archers today (Monday 8 August) celebrates Peggy Woolley, the longest-serving character in the programme, who featured in the very first episode broadcast in 1951. After more than 70 years in the role, June Spencer’s final episode as Peggy was broadcast on Sunday 31 July.

In tonight’s episode, Peggy’s son Tony and Tony’s wife Pat comment fondly on Peggy’s recent reminiscences and thoughts about family life. They agree she’s an extraordinary woman.

Strong and single minded, Peggy’s no-nonsense approach has frequently proved a challenge to her family, but she has also been a source of great comfort and wisdom, particularly to her grandchildren. Over the years they have turned to her in their hour of need, and she hasn’t let them down. However she has never been afraid to ruffle feathers, especially with some of her financial decisions, notably her will in 2014, and more recently with her invitation to the villagers of Ambridge to bid for money towards a sustainability project which resulted in the rewilding scheme.

June Spencer is 103, and has played the redoubtable Peggy Woolley for over 70 years. When The Archers started, Peggy was a young woman with two little girls. Now she’s a great-grandmother. She has featured in many important storylines including the harrowing account of her husband Jack Woolley succumbing to Alzheimers. It was particularly personal for her as her own husband, Roger, also had the condition until his death. The storyline began a year after her husband passed away.

Away from Ambridge, June’s love of gardening has won her awards at village horticultural shows for her roses, and she enjoys the peace and quiet of her second home in Menorca. In 1991 June was made an OBE and in June 2010 she received the Freedom of the City of London. June was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at the 2014 BBC Audio Drama Awards. She was made a CBE in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to drama and charity.

Jeremy Howe, Editor of The Archers, says: ‘I think working with June Spencer has been one of the greatest privileges of my many decades in drama. Her Peggy is one of the great creations of broadcasting – utterly charming, utterly ruthless, sharp as a knife and witty in spades. To think that June has commanded the airwaves over an Archers career of over 70 years beggars belief. I have rarely worked with such an inventive, focused and technically brilliant actor, or such a lovely person. Myself and the Archers team and cast wish June a well-deserved and long retirement – and I know that if she doesn’t think the show is up to the mark, June will be letting us know. Bravo the legend that is June Spencer.’

The Duchess of Cornwall is a long-standing listener to The Archers and made a cameo appearance as herself in a special episode marking the 60th anniversary of the show. Her Royal Highness reminisced: ‘Peggy is a true national treasure who has been part of my life, and millions of others, for as long as I can remember...’

June Spencer says: ‘In 1950 I helped to plant an acorn. It took root and in January 1951 it was planted out and called ‘The Archers’. Over the years it has thrived and become a splendid great tree with many branches. But now this old branch, known as Peggy, has become weak and unsafe so I decided it was high time she ‘boughed’ out, so I have duly lopped her.’

On 1 January 2021 episode number 19,343 of The Archers on BBC Radio 4 marked 70 years of the world’s longest running serial drama and the start of an anniversary year for the programme. A reflection of life in rural England, The Archers has grown from its original purpose of educating farmers on modern agricultural methods, to reflecting present-day rural life - all whilst entertaining listeners with the ebb and flow of the village of Ambridge.

Source BBC Radio 4

August 8, 2022 9:00am ET by BBC Radio 4  

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