In issue 537 of Doctor Who Magazine I had the opportunity to pay tribute to Pat Gorman. He was the ultimate I-Know-The-Face-But… performer – a familiar figure to TV watchers in the 60s, 70s and 80s, he gave you the nagging feeling that you’d seen him somewhere before. Probably because you had. He was a hotel guest dropping off keys in the Fawlty Towers episode The Builders (1975), he conducted surveillance in the first episode of The Sandbaggers (1978), and served with the Foreign Legion in Douglas Camfield’s BBC Beau Geste (1982). His CV took in pretty much every small screen classic: The Saint (1963), The Forsyte Saga (1968), Adam Adamant Lives (1966-67), The Prisoner (1967), Dad’s Army (1969), Doomwatch (1970), Dixon of Dock Green (1970), Callan (1972), Public Eye (1972), On The Buses (1973), The Two Ronnies (1973), The Tomorrow People (1975/1979), The Onedin Line (1976), I Claudius (1976), Porridge (1976), The Sweeney (1978), Secret Army (1978-79), The Professionals (1978-82), Minder (1979-82), Hammer House of Horror (1980), Day of the Triffids (1981), Blake’s 7 (1978-81) The Young Ones (1982) ‘Allo ‘Allo (1984) The Bill (1984), Miss Marple (1985) Magnum PI (1985 – yes, you read that right, this one was shot in the UK), The New Statesman (1992), Poirot (1992/1993), and Soldier, Soldier in 1994. And thats just scratching the surface! Most importantly to this corner of the internet, he appeared in over 100 episodes of Doctor Who across 41 stories, sometimes with a line or two, sometimes with a credit, and sometimes behind layers of make-up or latex.
In my DWM article, none of which I will replicate here – print media needs supporting and the issue is still available from the publishers, so please buy it if you haven’t already – I spoke to Pat’s friends and colleagues who were fulsome in their praise of him as a company member and as a person. There’s space here, that I didn’t have in DWM, for a few extra thoughts and memories from those tributes here.
When I broke the news of Pat’s passing to Doctor Who director Michael Briant (for whom Pat played a number of roles in 1971’s Colony in Space, and was the first representative of 1972’s The Sea Devils) he said: “How very sad to hear Pat has died. He was a very important part of so many Doctor Who productions back then. A story was not complete without Pat playing some role or other. He was the totally professional extra/walk-on and could always be relied on to do and act what was required. A very nice man and a pleasure to work with. He made a contribution to my era of Doctor Who that was extensive and valuable. And that was why he was used so often.”
For AFM and production manager Margot Hayhoe Pat was extremely helpful in the productions she used him on: “I loved having dear Pat on any show as he was so reliable. He came out to Yugoslavia on [the epic 1972/73 BBC production of] War & Peace to play different soldiers as required. A great charmer, may he rest in peace.”
Production manager Sue Upton worked with him on many shows, including Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970) in which he had a hefty part as the Silurian Scientist: “He was always the number one choice to have around on set and especially away on location in whatever role – and yes, he could speak the odd scripted line too. He was willing to do whatever was needed in whatever location or odd costume he had to wear.”
Since putting the article together I have been in touch with a few more of Pat’s colleagues, including costume designer June Hudson: “Pat loved the job. He had that chameleon quality of absorbing the character, always looking dead right in every costume he wore. If it was Pat, no worries. A sweet friendly artiste, greatly loved and admired.”
Love and admiration for Pat weren’t confined to the worlds of Doctor Who though. Costume designer Maggie Partington-Smith remembers his foray into Shakespeare – albeit dressed head to foot in a bear suit – in the BBC’s A Winter’s Tale (1981) “Lovely man – he nearly suffocated inside the costume but just laughed it off.” Laughter also came in Light Entertainment too, with producer John Adams recalling that he “always gave him parts as an extra because he could, if called upon, deliver a couple of lines. [Pat was] a very charming person liked by all he worked with.”
Actually, such tributes were fairly easy to come by – over the years I’ve interviewed loads of people from that era of television and they’ve always recalled Pat with a smile. Unfortunately, despite much digging, I’d never been unable to find out that much about Pat himself – Births, Marriages and Deaths records are awash with Patrick Gormans so working out which one was him was never going to be easy: I patted myself on the back that, for the DWM article, I’d narrowed his birth date down to 1930-32 and, as you’ll see, I shouldn’t have done.
We never managed to persuade him to contribute to the DVDs or be interviewed for Doctor Who Magazine, and I had not managed to find the unedited versions of the two interviews with him I knew to have been conducted. They’re all we have really – quotes from him about working on 1968’s The Invasion (from David Banks’ Cyberman book), and some soundbites selected for the I Was That Monster feature played before the 1993 Planet of the Daleks repeat (frustratingly I located most of the full versions of all the other interviews conducted for this programme, but not the one with Pat).
Nevertheless, it was good that DWM were still prepared to run my piece about Pat which took its cue from Eastenders actor, and old mate of Pat, Derek Martin, who described him as “the unknown soldier” of British TV. Always there, doing good work, but not many paid him much attention nor knew his name. Since the publication of the article, I have been contacted by Pat’s family, and they have very kindly allowed us to know him a little bit more.
William Patrick Gorman was born in the East End of London on May 10th 1933 but his was a childhood blighted by sadness. Both of his parents died before he was five years old and so he was sent to live with his grandmother and so separated from his sister (who was housed by an aunt). There was no money and so he had his first brush on the fringes of show business by hanging around at the stage door of the opera house and running errands for pennies (which he would take home and give to his grandma).
Like many East End kids he was evacuated during the war, but unlike some he flourished in the countryside – he struck lucky, billeted to a farm with kindly foster parents he discovered a love for animals, wildlife and the rural surroundings that stayed with him for life.
He went back to live with his grandmother after the war and at school was an extremely proficient sportsman, particularly on the football field. His early promise found him set for a career with Arsenal but unfortunately two injuries to his knee, which resulted in his cartilage being removed, put paid to that. He still played at an amateur level though, and never lost his love for Arsenal – and his fellow extras and East End lads Derek Martin and Steve Ismay attest that even if he didn’t make it as a pro he remained an extremely talented player (they had both first encountered him playing Sunday League football at Hackney Marshes), maintaining a number of contacts in footballing circles.
Inevitably, thanks to time and geography, he also had contacts with the more unsavoury side of East End life: he knew gangster brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray and their rivals the Richardsons, but always kept his nose clean. Nonetheless there was one occasion when – in a case of mistaken identity – a contract was put out on his head, which was hair-raising for a few days. Fortunately the error was pointed out to the right people and Pat was able to stop looking over his shoulder.
Unfortunate potential contract killings aside, he had a fair few adventures as a young man – he served in the army after leaving school and then travelled around Canada. Without any money – but with a little help from the Salvation Army – he was an itinerant worker, mucking in as a miner and a logger, doing backbreaking work and avoiding grizzly bears. He’d planned to stay in Canada but moved back to the East End to look after his grandma when she was widowed. Whilst working at Smithfield Market he kept noticing a man who was handing out a phone number and asked what it was all about – the man represented an agency looking after extras and stuntmen and so Pat put himself forward and, after a meeting had been arranged, hit it off with the agent.
Having been instructed by the agent to buy himself a posh suit for auditions he did so on his way to the hospital following the birth of his son. His wife Vera remembers being none too pleased when Pat turned up to the hospital with a big bundle – something she assumed was some sort of present to mark the happy moment – which turned out to be his new clobber. At the time jacking in the job on the market didn’t seem like the best decision he’d ever made either – though history now tells us otherwise.
“He absolutely loved the business,” recalls Vera, and it was a business that loved him back. As well as the many, many programmes readers of this blog will doubtless always be delighted to see him turn up in, he did modelling work, adverts (often for foreign countries and unseen here) and networked his way into all sorts of opportunities.”We’ve got all these book covers” laughs his daughter Jackie “someone’s lying dead – [and it’s] Pat with a dagger in his chest or something!” Eventually he didn’t even need an agent – every production team had his number and contacted him directly, handily saving him 10% of a fee he might otherwise have had to give away. He occasionally advertised in the industry directory Spotlight, but not that often. People knew Pat and knew where to find him, and the work kept rolling in.
Although his appetite for the business was huge, Vera says that “at work he was out there and gregarious but once he got home he was a much more quiet and private man”. Jackie agrees “There was a generous, lively side of him who did well in his work but there was the quieter side at home. He was great to have as a father.”
As for his work highlights, Jackie is says that “I think his big love was Doctor Who. He was very proud that he had the main characters but nobody knew it was him – the werewolf, the sea monster. He sat for hours having this make-up done. He rather liked being these weird, kooky characters – it sort of appealed to a side of his nature”.
As well as playing various monsters, Pat got his face on screen a fair few times, often in featured roles – he’s the UNIT corporal warning the Brigadier about a Stegosaurus around the corner in Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974), a casually brutal Thal Soldier in Genesis of the Daleks (1975, “Oh kill it off, it’s too slow” he says of a lagging Sarah-Jane), and spends a couple of episodes in a time loop with John Woodvine’s Marshall as the Pilot in The Armageddon Factor (1979). They’re never parts that required showy acting, but if Pat hadn’t been any good we would all have noticed. His solidity, his earthy believability, made him invaluable in these parts – and sometimes the smallest ones with the fewest lines are the hardest to pull off. Television of that period is awash with stiff or stilted cough and spitters, but Pat had a naturalism that made him invaluable. Good acting isn’t just about vocal ability though – physical prowess is important too, and he was just as adept at wearing cumbersome monster costumes well. It’s easy to shamble in latex, but Pat never did.
There were many, many other shows of course – he frequently illuminated the background in long running classics like EastEnders and Z-Cars: “We were tall and short haired so we fit any job” says Steve Ismay, who worked with Pat a lot, “we had many a laugh and a good drink or ten – he was always a laugh and a great friend”. In fact Pat was offered a substantial role in EastEnders but at the same time he was offered extra work on a film in China and took that because the opportunity to travel was an appealing one – “I think at the end of the day that was something he wondered if he should have taken” says Jackie, but on balance reckons it was for the best. “I’m not sure if he really wanted the limelight to be honest,” she says. “I think he quite liked being hidden behind masks and always being in the background. I think he just liked being part of the business as it were. He was in constant work and he enjoyed it.”
His private nature certainly wasn’t a reflection of what he thought of the fans who expressed their interest. “He had so many people sending photographs and he would always sign them and reply. It was important that they got what they wanted. If they were a genuine fan who’d taken the time to contact him then that’s what he was about – he was happy, ” says Jackie. Our lack of interviews with him is another matter. “He was asked to go to so many conferences, and things for the BBC, but he wouldn’t go – that was the quiet side of him. I think he felt he couldn’t really do it. I think once he retired he stepped back from all those things.”
At home though, Jackie happily recalls that “he loved to tell stories about Doctor Who and the hairy things that happened to him at the East End. He was good fun. An incredible sense of humour, that’s something that’s very important about Pat – everybody said how funny he was. Not in a way of wanting to be funny or have people looking at him … it was just natural – these remarks would come out which were hysterically funny. He was very much a people observer as well – he was quite a character.”
Steve Ismay concurs, remembering lots of laughter with his old mate Pat “He made us all laugh – funny git, loved a giggle. I have been to many funerals with him on film – on Steptoe and Son we laughed so much we got a commendation from the director who thought we were crying!”
Pat passed away after a short illness in October 2018, but so long as people are watching Doctor Who he’ll always be around, even if it’s only for long enough for someone to say “oh, it’s that guy.” “That guy” is now remembered (with the correct birthdate too!) on BAFTA’s In Memoriam page, and quite right too.
Pat may not have been a star, but he was definitely part of the Doctor Who family, and news of his death has even drawn comment from the fourth Doctor himself, Tom Baker. “Pat seemed always to be there,” Tom told me last week. “We took it for granted that his good natured enthusiasm was part of the deal. He liked what I did and told me so, and I found that delightful and I suppose I agreed with him. Of course I have never left and I am sorry Pat Gorman has gone on ahead.”
“There was a sweet quality about him, as if … as if he was quite contented and happy to be in Doctor Who.”
And we were happy to have him.
With special thanks to Jackie Finegan, Vera Gorman and thanks to Tom Baker, June Hudson, Ben Jolly, Margot Hayhoe, Katy Manning, Sue Upton, Michael Briant, Steve Ismay, Derek Martin, June Hudson, Marcia Wheeler, Ed Stradling, John Adams.