Bye bye! Actress Ruth Madoc has died at the age of 79, her agent confirmed in a statement.
Best known for playing Gladys Pugh in the 1980s holiday camp sitcom Hi-de-Hi!, she was due to star in the Christmas pantomime Aladdin in Torquay but had been forced to withdraw earlier this week following a fall .
Phil Belfield of talent agency Belfield & Ward Ltd, described her as “a unique and unique talent loved by many”.
She said: “It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of our dear and beloved client Ruth Madoc.
“Ruth passed away on the afternoon of Friday 9th December whilst in hospital following surgery for a fall she had earlier in the week which had forced her to retire from panto in Torquay.
“From film work such as Fiddler On The Roof and Under Milk Wood with Richard Burton and her iconic TV performance as Gladys Pugh in Hi De Hi! and most recently in Little Britain and on stage with Calendar Girls (the show and the musical), in addition to recent acclaim in the shorts Skinny Fat and Cardiff, he was truly a national treasure and can’t wait to get back on the road in 2023 with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
“A true legend of the British entertainment scene, she was one of a kind and a unique talent loved by many. She left too soon. Our hearts are broken!
“Thoughts are with his daughter Lowri, his son Rhys and his entire family.”
One of the first stars to pay tribute was Blackadder actor Sir Tony Robinson, who performed with her in 2009.
Robinson wrote on Twitter: “So sad to hear that my lovely friend Ruth Madoc has passed away. She was not only funny and very smart, she was smart, kind, a loyal trade unionist and carried her heart to the left. She will be greatly missed.”
Madoc had a lead role in the long-running BBC comedy Hi-de-Hi!, for which she was BAFTA nominated. Set in the late 1950s at the fictional Maplins holiday camp, the show ran for nine series and 58 episodes, from 1980 to 1988.
Her character, Gladys, was Chief Yellowcoat, famous for her tannoy camp announcements preceded by three distinctive notes played on a mini xylophone, followed by her saying “Hello campers” and then the title phrase “Bye bye!”
Her recurring storyline centered around her unrequited love for camp entertainment manager Jeffrey Fairbrother, played by Simon Cadell. She later performed the role in a touring stage version of the play.
Calling her “a very lovely person” and “a wonderfully gifted actress”, broadcaster Gyles Brandreth wrote on Twitter: “I was lucky enough to know her through my best friend from school, Simon Cadell.
“In Hi-De-Hi they were irresistible. RIP Ruth Madoc and thanks for the memories. Goodbye campers!”
Former Family Fortunes host Les Dennis wrote on Twitter: “Very sad to hear the lovely Ruth Madoc has passed away. She was such a talented and lovely woman. Thoughts with her family.”
Madoc was due to play the Empress in the pantomime Aladdin, which at the Princess Theater in Torquay, alongside EastEnders actor Ricky Norwood and X Factor star Jay Edwards, but had to withdraw from the role the week before opening night after suffered a fall.
The theater had tweeted on Thursday: “Following an incident earlier this week following a medical evaluation, Ruth Madoc is sadly unable to appear in this year’s Aladdin pantomime at the Princess Theater Torquay.”
Following news of her passing, they wrote, “We are devastated to hear of Ruth passing. Everyone at the theater and ATG is sending all our love to Ruth’s family.”
A panto veteran, she had appeared in the over 30s, playing roles including the lead boy in Dick Whittington in Edinburgh, the wicked fairy in Sleeping Beauty in Rhyl and the fairy godmother in Cinderella in Mansfield.
A star of stage and screen, she has performed in a number of roles in theater and musicals around the world, including Phantom of the Opera, Gypsy and Annie.
In 2018, she performed in the female version of The Real Full Monty alongside stars like Coleen Nolan, Victoria Derbyshire and Michelle Heaton, raising awareness of breast cancer.
A year later, she broke her hip in a fall while rehearsing for her role on Calendar Girls but confused doctors with her speedy recovery.
Born in April 1943 in Norwich, Madoc was raised in Llansamlet near Swansea largely by her grandparents.
She went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and landed her breakthrough role playing Fruma Sarah in the film version of the musical Fiddler on the Roof in 1971.
In addition to Hi-de-Hi!, other career highlights include Mrs Dai Bread Two in the 1972 comedy film Under Milk Wood and later playing the mother of Daffyd Thomas, played by Matt Lucas, in the second series of Little Britain.
In 1984, she was introduced to the big red book when she was the subject of an episode of This Is Your Life.
Swansea University awarded her an honorary degree in 2006 and she was also a fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
She has been married twice, first to Welsh actor Philip Madoc, with whom she has two children. Married 20 years, they divorced in 1981. Her second husband, John Jackson, died last year.
He was due to join stars including Belinda Lang, Paul Nicholas and Tessa Peake-Jones in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’s UK theater tour, about a group of British pensioners in India, in January 2023.
Madoc is survived by his daughter Lowri and son Rhys.