An Ampthill man who played Tinky Winky, the handbag-carrying Tellytubby in the BBC children’s series, has died just four days after his 52nd birthday.
Father-of-three Simon Shelton Barnes, who trained as a ballet dancer and choreographer, was the brother-in-law of Poldark actor Robert Daws and the uncle of Inbetweeners actress Emily Atack.
He once said that being in the Tellytubbies was “a bit like the Beatles or Take That of television”, adding: “We used to receive a lot of fan mail from children and parents.”
Among the Facebook tributes that poured in for Simon this week was one from Paul’s McCartney’s brother Mike McGear, a second cousin of his wife Emma.
Mike wrote on her Facebook page: “So sad to hear about Si. He was a luvly lad..and will be dancing along Uncle Bills bar, knocking Mum&Dad, Milly&Ginny, Mike &Betts drinks off, as we talk! Luv to U & kids from me & mine X”
Simon is understood to have died while visiting Merseyside over Christmas. He wrote on his Facebook page: “I’m on the fabulous Wirral and had a fantastic Christmas Day lunch with Jude and her extraordinary Dad, Ken. Hope you’re all Happy and Healthy xxx.”
This week his eldest son Henry posted on Facebook: “I lost my lovely dad on Wednesday, he was the kindest and most gentle man I knew and I love him more than anything!!!!
“I always used to be embarrassed as a child that he was a dancer and an actor but now I couldn’t be more proud. He is in a better place now and I know he wouldn’t want me to be sad, so I’m going to live my life the way he would want me to.”
Friends who drank with Simon in the Queen’s Head pub in Ampthill also paid tribute on Facebook. Jonathan Duckett wrote: “What a legend, so extremely sad to hear this news”. Lanie Bryer added: “Very sad, he was lovely. Always a smile and a chat.”
Simon’s Tellytubby character Tinky Winky once caused controversy in the States after evangelical TV minister Jerry Falwell accused him of being gay.
But Simon said: “People always ask me if Tinky Winky is gay. But the character is supposed to be a three-year-old so the question is really quite silly.”
Relatives have asked mourners to “wear bright colours” at his funeral on February 7 which will be followed by a wake at Ampthill’s White Hart hotel.