John Edward Thaw died on the 21st of February 2002 at the age of 60, he was an English actor. Born in Longsight, Manchester on the 3rd of January 1942, to working class parents Dorothy (née Ablott) and John, a long-distance lorry driver Thaw had a difficult childhood as his mother left when he was seven years old and he did not see her again for 12 years.
His younger brother, Raymond Stuart “Ray” emigrated to Australia in the mid-1960s. He appeared in several episodes of the BBC police series Z-Cars in 1963–64 as a detective constable who left the force because of an unusual drink problem: he could not take the alcohol so often part of the policeman’s work.
Between 1964 and 1966, he starred in two series of the ABC Weekend Television/ITV production Redcap, playing the hard-nosed military policeman Sergeant John Mann. He was also a guest star in an early episode of The Avengers.
In 1967 he appeared in the Granada TV/ITV series, Inheritance, alongside James Bolam and Michael Goodliffe, as well as appearing in TV plays such as The Talking Head and episodes of series such as Budgie, where he played against type (opposite Adam Faith) as an effeminate failed playwright with a full beard and a Welsh accent.
Alongside his put-upon Detective Sergeant Lewis (Kevin Whately), Morse became a cult character—”a cognitive curmudgeon with his love of classical music, his classic Jaguar and spates of melancholy”. Thaw was the definitive Morse, grumpy, crossword-fixated, drunk, slightly anti-feminist, and pedantic about grammar.
Inspector Morse became one of the UK’s most loved TV series; the final three episodes, shown in 2000, were seen by 18 million people, about one third of the British population, and have been enjoyed by global audiences for years.
For example, repeat episodes are even currently (September 2015) enjoyed most weeks in Denmark on the main DR1 television channel in English with Danish subtitles. He won “Most Popular Actor” at the 1999 National Television Awards and won two BAFTA awards for his role as Morse.
John Thaw was a quiet, private man. His marriage to actress Sheila Hancock was generally regarded as one of the strongest in show business. When he died at the age of 60, the BBC website was inundated with tributes from the viewing public.
His “Inspector Morse” co-star Kevin Whately simply described him as the country’s finest screen actor. In February 2001, Ron Wertheimer wrote in The Times that the secret of Mr.Thaw’s performance was in ”locating that kernel of believability in the man to make yet another far-fetched tale seem real.”
Thaw is survived by his wife, the actress Sheila Hancock; two daughters, Abigail Thaw and Joanne Thaw; and a stepdaughter, Melanie Jane.