Celebrities

Nicholas Donnelly dead: Grange Hill’s Mr MacKenzie star dies at 83 as family pay tribute

Nicholas Donnelly stars as Mr MacKenzie in Grange Hill in 1988

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Nicholas Donnelly was best known for portraying CDT teacher Mr MacKenzie on the long-running children’s drama Grange Hill. The actor died in his sleep according to his family, who released a statement after his death.

 

They said: “He was a gracious, kind and lovely man, a wonderful father and grandfather.

“He was also very funny and brilliant at telling stories, acting out all the characters, marvellous company and a privilege to know.

“He loved nothing more than offering hospitality and making people feel welcome.”

A Grange Hill fan account also shared the sad news, tweeting: “It is my very sad duty to inform you that Nicholas Donnelly who played Mr MacKenzie sadly passed away this morning. RIP xxxx”.

Donnelly was a popular member of the Grange Hill cast, returning as Mr MacKenzie for eight seasons between 1985 and 1993. 

The actor also appeared in an impressive 200 episodes of the police drama Dixon of Dock Green between 1961 and 1976. 

Donnelly also starred as a guest in other long-running dramas, including The Bill and The Saint. 

Born in Kensington, London in 1938, he made his acting debut 20 years later in 1958 flick Carry On Sergeant alongside Kenneth Williams and William Hartnell, although the role was uncredited.

Donnelly also had roles in films A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and Lifeforce.

In 1993, the star retired to pursue an entirely different path as a church minister. 

The actor once discussed landing his role in Grange Hill in an interview with Express.co.uk.

He said: “I played Mr MacKenzie in Grange Hill from 1985, which was great because, again, it was regular work and they agreed for me to play him with a Scottish accent.

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“It was a big teatime show, but after nine years the accountants came in, I had fewer scenes and I left by mutual agreement feeling that I’d had a good run.

“After my agent died, I stopped acting because I relied on him for everything. Since then, I’ve focused on writing plays and a musical, which I hope to stage in the future. 

“That takes up my time now as well as golf and gardening. I met Alrun when I was stationed in Berlin and we’ve been married 56 years; we have two sons, two daughters and five grandchildren.”

He added: “I still get recognised from Dixon and Grange Hill and I always receive a hello and a nice smile. 

 

“Dixon Of Dock Green was such a big part of my life that whenever anyone asked my children what their dad did, they always replied, ‘He’s a policeman!’”

Donnelly met his wife Alrun during his National Service in Germany in the late 1950s, and the couple were married for more than 60 years, welcoming two sons, twin daughters and five grandchildren.

Several of his former Grange Hill co-stars have paid tribute, with Karen Lewis penning: “This is so sad. I worked with him during my time on Grange Hill. He was the most delightful man. A gentleman and a true professional. My thoughts are with his family and friends. RIP Nicholas.”

Another Grange Hill actor, Ricky Simmonds, added: “Nicholas was a true pro and a lovely man to work with. RIP.”

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