James Christopher Bolam MBE (born 16 June 1935) is an English actor.[1][2] He is best known for his roles as Terry Collier in The Likely Lads and its sequel Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, Jack Ford in When the Boat Comes In, Roy Figgis in Only When I Laugh, Trevor Chaplin in The Beiderbecke Trilogy, Arthur Gilder in Born and Bred, Jack Halford in New Tricks and the title character of Grandpa in the CBeebies programme Grandpa in My Pocket.

James Bolam
James Christopher Bolam

(1935-06-16) 16 June 1935 (age 89)
Alma materRoyal Central School of Speech and Drama
Years active1961–present
SpouseSusan Jameson (m. 1971)

Early life


Bolam was born on 16 June 1935 in Sunderland, County Durham. His father, Robert Alfred Bolam, was from Northumberland, and his mother, Marion Alice Drury,[3] from County Durham. After attending Bede Grammar School, Sunderland, Bolam attended Bemrose School in Derby.[4] Bolam trained as an articled clerk to a chartered accountant, before becoming an actor, and formally trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, London, where he won the gold medal and the Margaret Rawlings Cup.[5] Lacking funding for his fees, he worked in Lyons Corner House tearoom and West End restaurants, washing dishes at night and studying during the day.[5]

Bolam's first professional engagement was at the Royal Court Theatre as an understudy to Ronnie Barker in Chekhov's "Platonov".[5] He first appeared on screens in the early 1960s, initially in television shows such as Z-Cars and the Northern social realist films A Kind of Loving and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (both 1962), in the latter film as the best friend of the title character (played by Tom Courtenay).[3]

It was The Likely Lads, with Bolam as Terry Collier and Rodney Bewes as Bob Ferris, which made Bolam a star during its 1964 to 1966 run and he adapted the scripts for a BBC Radio version soon afterwards.[6] He appeared with John Thaw in the Granada serial, Inheritance in 1967.[7]

Before the sequel, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, began its run, Bolam appeared in films such as Half a Sixpence (1967), Otley (1969), and O Lucky Man! (1973).[3] The revived series, chronicling the further adventures of Bob and Terry, lasted for two series broadcast in 1973 and 1974 and a 45-minute 1974 Christmas Eve special.[3]

In 1975, Bolam appeared alongside the original cast in a further BBC Radio series adapted from the 1973 TV series and in 1976 there was a reunion in a feature film spin-off from the series, simply entitled The Likely Lads.[3] Bolam's co-star Rodney Bewes stated in 2005 that the two actors had not spoken since the film had been made, a period of over thirty years. The rift, according to Bewes, developed through his indiscreetly telling a journalist that when Bolam's wife revealed she was pregnant, Bolam was so startled that the car he was driving mounted a pavement and almost crashed into a lamp post.[8] Bolam denied there was a rift between the two men when Bewes died in November 2017, claiming that they "didn't talk for 40 years because of their busy schedules rather than resentment".[9][10]

Bolam is known for being guarded about his private life. He once remarked: "I'm having a man fix the track rods on my car. I don't want to know anything about him. Why should he want to know anything about me?"[8][11]

In 1976, Bolam returned to straight drama, as Jack Ford in the BBC Television series When the Boat Comes In, which ran until 1981. Since then he has mostly appeared in comedies and comedy dramas, including Only When I Laugh (as Roy Figgis) from 29 October 1979 to 16 December 1982, The Beiderbecke Affair (as Trevor Chaplin) in 1985, The Beiderbecke Tapes in 1987, Andy Capp (in the title role), The Beiderbecke Connection in 1988, Second Thoughts (as Bill MacGregor) from 3 May 1991 to 14 October 1994, Midsomer Murders, Pay and Display, Dalziel and Pascoe, Close and True, Born and Bred (as Dr Arthur Gilder), and New Tricks (as Jack Halford). Another memorable role was alongside Timothy West and Sheila Hancock in the 2002 series of the BBC comedy-drama Bedtime, in which Bolam played the seemingly decent but actually crooked Ronnie Stribling.[3]

On radio, in 1978 he played Willie Garvin in a BBC World Service radio adaptation of the Modesty Blaise book Last Day in Limbo.[3] He provided the voice for The Tod in the animated film version of The Plague Dogs (1982). In the mid-1980s, he co-starred in the original radio version of the romantic sitcom Second Thoughts, which ran for several series and was subsequently adapted for television with Bolam reprising his role. In the year 2000 he played Sir Archibald Flint in the Doctor Who audio play The Spectre of Lanyon Moor. He was also the narrator for the three-part football documentary Three Lions, which aired before Euro 2000 on BBC One. The three episodes were about England's National Team's history from the 1966 World Cup until before the Euro 2000 finals.[3]

In 2002, Bolam played the serial killer Harold Shipman in Shipman, the ITV adaptation of Brian Whittle and Jean Ritchie's book on the case, Prescription for Murder [12] and Father Leonard Tibbings in Dalziel and Pascoe (Ser. 7, Ep. 1 'Sins of the Fathers').[12] He portrayed Harold Wilson, the former Prime Minister, in the 2006 BBC documentary The Plot Against Harold Wilson.[12] He appeared in Frank Loesser's musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Chichester Festival Theatre during the 2005 summer season. He played the role of Grandpa in the Cbeebies show Grandpa in My Pocket.[12] In 2009 he played Ken Lewis, CEO of the Bank of America, in the television dramatisation The Last Days of Lehman Brothers.[12] His appearances on the London stage include Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell by Keith Waterhouse.[13]

Personal life


Bolam lives in Wisborough Green, West Sussex and Chiswick, London, with his wife, actress Susan Jameson (who co-starred with him in an early episode of The Likely Lads, When the Boat Comes In and New Tricks). They have a daughter, Lucy.

Bolam plays golf and is a member of the Stage Golfing Society.[14] Bolam sang top tenor in the Wisborough Green barber shop choir, a small local group that performed at fetes and small venues (The Right Notes Nov. 1995). He appeared in a 2014 video protesting against oil drilling near Wisborough Green.[15]

Bolam was appointed MBE in the 2009 Birthday Honours "For services to Drama".[16]


Year Title Role Notes
1961 The Kitchen Michael
1962 H.M.S. Defiant Midshipman Assisting in Operation Uncredited
A Kind of Loving Jeff
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Mike
1964 Murder Most Foul Bill Hanson
1966 The Sandwich Man Navvy with Cap Uncredited cameo
1967 Half a Sixpence Mr. Jones
1968 Otley Albert
1971 Crucible of Terror John Davies
1972 Straight on till Morning Joey
1973 O Lucky Man! Attenborough / Examination Doctor
1975 In Celebration Colin Shaw
1976 The Likely Lads Terry Collier
1982 The Plague Dogs The Tod Voice
1983 Clash of Loyalties A. T. Wilson
1994 Seaview Nights Merlin
1995 Clockwork Mice Wackey
1996 Stella Does Tricks Mr. Peters
1997 The Island on Bird Street Dr. Studjinsky
1999 The End of the Affair Mr. Savage
2000 It Was an Accident Vernon Fitch
2003 To Kill a King Denzil Holles
2005 More of Loesser J. B. Biggley
2012 Unconditional Hutch

Television credits

Year Title Role Notes
1960 Julius Caesar Various 3 episodes
1962 ITV Play of the Week Johnny Episode: "The Week-Enders"
Probation Officer Alan Pendle Episode: #4.19
Drama 61-67 Nick Episode: "The Slaughter Men"
ITV Television Playhouse Bert Episode: "No Cause for Alarm"
1963 The Odd Man Juke Justice Episode: "This Stuff's Thicker Than Water"
Love Story Charlie Mitchell Episode: "Charlie Is My Darling"
ITV Play of the Week Herbert Hudd Episode: "Out There"
Taxi! Lionel Curtiss Episode: "Can't You Drive a Little Faster?"
ITV Play of the Week Hec Hammond Episode: "London Wall"
Z-Cars Tom Potter Episode: "Supper in the Morning"
ITV Television Playhouse Sam Weller Episode: "Mr. Pickwick"
1964 It's Dark Outside Wilfred Episode: "A Case for Identification"
The Four Seasons of Rosie Carr Frank Lambert 3 episodes
ITV Play of the Week Roland Maule Episode: "Present Laughter"
Cluff Jacob Bateson Episode: "The Daughter-In-Law"
No Hiding Place George Holmes Episode: "Rogue's Gallery"
1964–1966 The Likely Lads Terry Collier All 20 episodes
1965 Thursday Theatre Magpie Episode: "Naked Island"
1967 Thirty-Minute Theatre Muggles Episode: "The Sufferings of Peter Obiznov"
Inheritance Joe Bamforth 5 episodes
1968 Inside George Webley Policeman Episode: "Hold Your Breath and Count to Fifty"
Omnibus Pinkie Episode: "Graham Greene: The Hunted Man"
1969 Boy Meets Girl McHenry Episode: "One, Two, Sky's Blue"
ITV Sunday Night Theatre Jack Todd Episode: "Wolly Wenpol, the Complete Works"
1970 W. Somerset Maugham Leslie Gaze Episode: "Footprints in the Jungle"
1971 Take Three Girls Toby Baxter 2 episodes
Public Eye Alan Grove Episode: "I Always Wanted a Swimming Pool"
The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Roberts Episode: "The Case of the Dixon Torpedo"
1972 Budgie Wossname Walsh 2 episodes
The Protectors Max Toller Episode: "See No Evil"
Jackanory Playhouse Sam Pongo Episode: "Daft Sam"
1973–1974 Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? Terry Collier All 27 episodes
1973 Play for Today Husband Episode: "Making the Play"
Oranges & Lemons Arthur Episode: "A Funny Kind of Joke"
1974 Armchair Theatre Charlie Episode: "If You Could See What I Can See"
1975 The Philanthropist Don TV film
1976–1981 When the Boat Comes In Jack Ford 48 episodes
1978 Armchair Thriller Mark Omney All 6 episodes of The Limbo Connection
1979–1982 Only When I Laugh Roy Figgis All 29 episodes
1983 Shades of Darkness Arthur Frode Episode: "The Maze"
Macbeth Porter TV film
1985 The Beiderbecke Affair Trevor Chaplin All 6 episodes
1986–1988 Room at the Bottom Nesbitt Gunn All 13 episodes
1987 Father Matthew's Daughter Father Matthew All 6 episodes
The Beiderbecke Tapes Trevor Chaplin Both 2 episodes
1988 Andy Capp Andy Capp All 6 episodes
The Beiderbecke Connection Trevor Chaplin All 4 episodes
1990 Screen One Glyn Episode: "Sticky Wickets"
1991–1994 Second Thoughts Bill MacGregor All 49 episodes
1995 Eleven Men Against Eleven Ted Whitehead TV film
1997 Have Your Cake and Eat It Nat Oliver All 4 episodes
The Missing Postman Clive Peacock TV film
1998 The Stalker's Apprentice Helmut Kranze
Out of Sight Kevin Higgins Episode: "A Gottle of Geer"
1999 Midsomer Murders Ron Pringle Episode: "Death of a Stranger"
2000 Pay and Display Sydney Street All 6 episodes
Dirty Tricks Moss TV film
Victoria Wood with All the Trimmings Various
Close and True Graham True All 6 episodes
2002 Harold Shipman: Doctor Death Harold Shipman TV film
Bedtime Ronnie Stribling Episode: #2.3
Dalziel and Pascoe Father Leonard Tibbings Episode: "Sins of the Fathers"
2002–2005 Born and Bred Arthur Gilder 22 episodes
2003–2015 New Tricks Jack Halford 69 episodes
2004 He Knew He Was Right Mr. Crump Episode: "Part 4"
2006 The Afternoon Play Billy Episode: "The Last Will and Testament of Billy Two-Sheds"
The Plot Against Harold Wilson Harold Wilson TV film
2007 Celebration Matt
2009–2014 Grandpa in My Pocket Grandpa Main role
2009 The Last Days of Lehman Brothers Ken Lewis TV film
2011 Made in Wales Baz Episode: "Tentboy"
2012 Just Around the Corner Mick TV film
2016 Cold Feet Harry Matthews 2 episodes
2022 Marriage Gerry 3 episodes
The Cleaner Dad Episode: "A Cleaner Christmas"
2023 Sanditon Sir Rowleigh Pryce 6 episodes[17]
All Creatures Great and Small Mr. Dakin Episode: "Carpe Diem"


  1. ^ England & Wales Birth Register Index; Bolam, James C.; September quarter 1935; Registration District: Sunderland; Registration County: Tyne & Wear; Volume 10a; Page 913
  2. ^ "Derbyshire news, views & business listings from Derbyshire's Community | This is Derbyshire". Bygonederbyshire.co.uk. 21 September 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "James Bolam Biography (1938–)". Filmreference.com. 16 June 1938. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  4. ^ "The Museum of Broadcast Communications – Encyclopedia of Television". Museum.tv. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "Desert Island Discs". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  6. ^ "The Likely Lads Radio Series 1967-9168". British Classic Comedy. 14 April 2020. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  7. ^ "TV preview: The Mill | When Björk Met Attenborough | The Scotsman".
  8. ^ a b "What did happen to the Likely Lads?". Thenorthernecho.co.uk. 7 August 2006. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
  9. ^ Skopeliti, Clea. "James Bolam denies feud with Likely Lads co-star Rodney Bewes". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  10. ^ McCann, Graham. "Strained Relationships: Bewes and Bolam". comedy.co.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  11. ^ "The first part of our A to Z guide to Sunderland". Sunderland Echo. 24 September 2009. Archived from the original on 18 March 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2009.
  12. ^ a b c d e "James Bolam credits". tvguide.com. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  13. ^ "The Stage Review". The Stage. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  14. ^ "The Stage Golfing Society". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  15. ^ [1] Archived 24 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "No. 59090". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 2009. p. 14.
  17. ^ Rice, Lynette (1 March 2023). "'Sanditon': Masterpiece Drops Trailer For Final Season". Deadline. Retrieved 20 March 2023.