THE chairman of the Thwaites Empire Theatre has paid tribute to Blackburn-born actor Anthony Valentine who died on Wednesday aged 76.

Michael Berry said that Mr Valentine was a true gentleman and that the theatre had lost a good friend.


Mr Valentine was the theatre’s patron, taking over from Sir John Mills in 2005.

Mr Berry said: “Anthony was a lovely man and a brilliant actor.

“He was actually a very quiet man but he had a keen sense of humour and he really loved his trips back to Blackburn.

“When we unveiled the refurbished balcony at the theatre in 2005, he went through the speech I was due to give, re-wrote it and even put in directions as to where I needed to pause and where I needed to give certain phrases a particular emphasis.

“He was a perfectionist and that shone through in all the quality roles he had on both stage and screen.”

Mr Valentine was born in Infirmary Street and his connection to the then Empire Cinema began at an early age.

In an interview with the Lancashire Telegraph he spoke of his childhood.

He said: “As a family we moved down to London when I was six, but my early days in Blackburn certainly shaped the person I would become and I’ve never lost my affection for my home town.

Mr Valentine’s acting career began when he was 11 and he got regular work as a child actor before becoming a familiar face on stage and screen.

He is best known for roles in the TV drama series Raffles, Colditz and Callan.

He also enjoyed a role in Britain’s most famous soap, Coronation Street.

“When he was in Coronation Street he asked if he could put a show on at the Empire Theatre with some of his co-stars,” said Mr Berry. “It sold out within two hours.”

In spite of his success, Mr Valentine shunned the limelight often associated with showbiz.

He told the Lancashire Telegraph: “I’m not really into the party scene.

“I’d rather have a few friends round and enjoy their company.”

Mr Valentine, who had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease leaves his widow, the actress Susan Skipper whom he met while on the set of the Raffles TV series.