Bafta-winning comic actor Ronnie Barker - most famous as one half of the double act The Two Ronnies with Ronnie Corbett - has died at the age of 76. After a long battle with heart disease, he passed away yesterday (3 October 2005) at his home in the Cotswolds.

Born Ronald William George Barker in Bedford on 25 September 1929, the performer and writer was best known for his leading role in television sitcoms Porridge and Open All Hours, and of course The Two Ronnies.

But Barker’s career began in the theatre when he joined the Aylesbury Repertory Company in 1948. By 1955 he was in demand in the West End, appearing in roles in Mourning Becomes Electra, Summertime, Listen to The Wind, Double Image, Casino Road, Lysistrata, Irma La Douce and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His talent for accents and ‘funny’ voices marked him out as a comedian, and during the 1960s, he became well established as a radio performer, leaving his theatrical career in the wings.

Barker teamed up with Ronnie Corbett in 1971, and their sketch shows ran for 12 series over 16 years. Barker’s many accolades include four Baftas and an OBE, which he was awarded in 1978. In 1987 at the age of 57, he announced his retirement from show business but, much to the delight of his fans, was lured back to play Churchill’s long-suffering manservant Inches in the BBC drama The Gathering Storm in 2002.

A television programme about his life, Ronnie Barker: A Bafta Tribute was broadcast last year, with stars as diverse as American Gene Wilder and Sir Peter Hall praising the comedian for his work. Barker is survived by his wife, Joy Tubb, and children Charlotte and Adam.

- by Caroline Ansdell