Bill Treacher

Bill Treacher (born 4 June 1930) is a retired English actor. He is known for portraying the role of Arthur Fowler in the BBC soap opera EastEnders from 1985 to 1996, and was the first person to be cast for the show.

Bill Treacher
William Treacher

(1930-06-04) 4 June 1930 (age 90)
London, England
Years active1963–2012
Spouse(s)Katherine Kessey

Early lifeEdit

Treacher grew up in the East End of London. After his national service in the Royal Air Force, he worked as a steward with P&O, where he saved enough money to attend drama school.[1]

Acting careerEdit


After graduating from the prestigious Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, he made his West End debut in 1963 with the comedy Shout for Life at The Vaudeville Theatre. Several successful West End roles followed.


Treacher then moved into television drama, making appearances in a number of classic series of the 1970s including Grange Hill, Dad's Army, Bless This House, Minder, The Sweeney, The Professionals, Dixon of Dock Green, Z-Cars and The Agatha Christie Hour.


In late 1984, Treacher was the first actor to be cast in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, appearing in the first episode on 19 February 1985 as Arthur Fowler, a role he played for the next 11 years. The co-creators, Tony Holland and Julia Smith, had scripted the character with Treacher in mind.[2] Treacher said in 2015 that he was initially reluctant to sign up for the show as it meant long hours and a sizeable commute to his family home in Suffolk but that he relented due to the chance of a steady income.[3] He received much critical acclaim for the role, especially for his portrayal of his character's mental decline and subsequent nervous breakdown. The character also endured a succession of misfortunes, which included two short spells in prison, a persistent struggle with unemployment, his daughter Michelle's pregnancy at the age of 16, his son Mark's diagnosis with HIV, and a midlife crisis where he had an affair which almost broke up his marriage.

By 1995, Treacher had requested to be written out of the series, stating: "By the time I finished, even the sound of the theme music was making me feel ill. I felt depressed." He also stated in a 2003 BBC documentary interviewing past stars of the show that he felt compelled to leave with advancing age. He said the stress of a gruelling schedule working long hours on the show was affecting his health and that doctors told him that if he did not leave the job soon and relax it would kill him.

Although it was his decision to leave the soap, Treacher was shocked that the show's bosses chose to kill Arthur off.[citation needed]

Other television appearancesEdit

Bill appeared in the episode 'Selected Target' in the 1970's Police drama series The Sweeney. In 2006, Treacher had a guest-starring role in the ITV police drama The Bill. He also appeared as a security guard in an episode of Casualty in December 2007.


Treacher has since appeared in several films, most notably Pop Pirates (1984), The Musketeer (2001), Tale of the Mummy (1998), and George and the Dragon (2004).


Treacher is also an accomplished radio actor, and has appeared in a BBC Radio 4 Play of the day "Bringing Eddie Home" by John Peacock, based on a true story of the fight by Eastend couple Edna and Jack Wallace to get their son's body brought home from Aden, and the ensuing fight for the rights of British service personnel. Treacher played the role of the older Jack Wallace and the play also included other ex EastEnders actors Tilly Vosburgh, Edna Doré, Todd Carty and Joe Absolom.


In 1973, Treacher appeared in a British television commercial for the Austin Allegro motor car. In 1983, he later appeared in another British television commercial this time for Colgate toothpaste where he played a grocer. In 1984, he was a Beefeater in the Tower of London to Paul Hogan's tourist in a British television commercial for Foster's Lager.[citation needed]

Personal lifeEdit

Treacher is married to the Australian actress Katherine Kessey and they have two children: Jamie, who is also an actor, and Sophie, a production assistant. They live in Suffolk. In 2015, Treacher told the press that he is suffering from ataxia, a degenerative disease that hinders balance and the ability to walk. Treacher said that as a result of this he had fully retired and he had to rely on a wheelchair for mobility. He said that he no longer watched Eastenders.[3]


  1. ^ Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 978-0-685-52957-7.
  2. ^ Smith, Julia; Holland, Tony (1987). EastEnders - The Inside Story. Book Club Associates. ISBN 0-563-20601-2.
  3. ^ a b Manger, Warren (15 February 2015). "Bill Treacher on leaving role as Arthur Fowler and his illness since EastEnders". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 21 June 2015.

External linksEdit