Sunday, 11 February 2018

Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 11: Archie Gibbs

A signed photo card of Jack Haig in character as Archie Gibbs from 1985. Mr Haig had the photo cards printed after he had made his last appearance as the King's Oak poacher, night porter and gardener as he kept receiving requests from fans for Archie pics. He never officially left the Archie role as he was only a 'permanent occasional' character, but his success in '80s BBC sitcom "Allo, Allo!" ('It is I - Le Clerc!') left him no time to keep up his Crossroads stints.

Archie Gibbs, played with gusto by Jack Haig, was a King's Oak local who was a bit of a bad geezer. But not terribly bad. A spot of poaching here and there, an eye on the main chance (which never materialised) and a loud and cheery attitude that could grate on the nerves. He wasn't the most sensitive of blokes, and Miss Tatum was quick to put him in his place: "MR GIBBS!"

Not that it was easy to quell Archie.

Archie first appeared in 1967 and an early storyline saw him thinking he might be descended from aristocracy and perhaps heir to something good. His eyes lit up. But it was not to be.

As a 'permanent occasional' character, he was often around the motel, and helped supervise (!) the modernisation of the reception area in 1969.

I read recently that it was Archie who first called Diane Lawton/Parker/Hunter 'Miss Diane' - the name later made so famous by Benny Hawkins. I don't recall it - probably because he didn't do it very often - but fancy that!

Our Mr Gibbs could really shine at Christmas events - he was very happy belting out a good old fashioned tune - singa-longa-Archie style, and, in 1980, even dragged staid Miss Luke out from the kitchen to dance at the disco organised by Sandy Richardson.

Oh yes, the man definitely had a fun side!

It was also in 1980 that Archie, along with Kath Brownlow, came to witness chef Shughie McFee's attempted wrecking of the motel kitchen during his nervous breakdown. Archie and Shughie were never what you might call best pals, but Archie was very kindly at that point - although he was partial to a bit of motel gossip, he never spread the word about Shughie's strange behaviour.

Archie was last seen in 1982. He had taken up the jobs of night porter and part-time gardener at Crossroads and made life miserable for Benny, who was employed as his assistant in the garden. The reason was simply jealousy - Benny had just come into a hefty inheritance from his father. Archie harped on and on, and gentle Benny finally left his job.

Actor Jack Haig became a major television star through his role as Monsieur Le Clerc in the BBC TV comedy 'Allo, 'Allo! from 1982 onwards, which was why Archie was not seen in Crossroads again. He was occasionally mentioned for a year or two afterwards. In 1983, we learned that local builder Percy Dobson was also employing Archie to do a spot of gardening for him. Kath Brownlow was horrified when Percy tried to insist that Archie do some work on her garden, on his bill, of course. This was Percy currying favour, but Kath had to refuse. She simply didn't want Archie around.

Couldn't really blame her. Although he was highly entertaining as a fictional character, many would have run a mile from him in real life.

I liked him though - in fact, he was a great favourite of mine. I was always delighted when he appeared in the motel saga.

Archie  livened things up, and I'd cheer when he turned up to start a new stint after an absence.

But I certainly wouldn't have fancied having him for a colleague or neighbour...

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