A tribute to Diana Rigg
‘Where Steed jumps the gun and Emma gains her wings’
Where on earth do, I begin?
Spaghetti Bolognese, the deliciously saucy Emma Peel and Sonnets.
That’s where I will start.
In the late 1970s and early 80s my mother became the housekeeper for the local gentry in their manor house and I would often be roped into helping with the washing up at larger dinner parties. As a 12 year old it was a way of earning a little extra pocket money.
We often had the guests popping their heads into the kitchen to say hello. Government Ministers, titled socialites, actors such as Jonathan Cecil and my favourite Diana Rigg (she wasn’t a Dame then).
Diana and my Mum would swap recipes whilst I sat listening to her exciting stories of exotic international travel and generally piddling about on the stage. I remember once having a food fight with her whilst she tried to recite some sonnets. Every time she dried, I would launch a spoonful of Spag Bol at her, as she would throw bread sticks at me. We giggled like school kids as my mother made us clear up the mess in the kitchen.
At school I had learnt the cheeky verse ‘The boy stood on the burning deck eating red hot scallops, one fell drown his trousers and burnt him on the……………………………knee.’
I fired this off with full theatrical flourish. Diana roared with laughter and replied with ‘Mary had a little lamb, her father shot it dead. And now Mary takes her lamb to school, between two hunks of bread’.
I still have a number of her ‘Mary had a little lamb’ verses I use today; all are very witty, and some are very blue but all are courtesy of Diana Rigg.
I only knew her as James Bond’s wife from ‘OHMSS’ at that time. At the age of 12, Shakespeare was a bit out of my league, however Diana did get me into reading sonnets.
She was always smiling, always hugging and kissing when we met and always took an interest in what I was doing. Today I suppose we would call her a Luvvie, but upon reflection I found her honest, sincere and thoroughly cheeky.
How many people can say Emma Peel taught them to swear!
I discovered 'The Avengers' when it was repeated on Channel 4 and asked her about it once. She replied ‘I laughed from start to finish, but it paid the bills and got me known. In my line of work, you always needed a stage to launch from’.
To many she was an icon of the 1960s, to others she was the girl who went from comic book hero to a board-treading stalwart, that iconic professional who never failed to deliver an audience-slaying performance.
Even now you can see her on Channel 5’s remake of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ as Mrs Pumphrey. - working right up to the final curtain.
I have tried not to create a chronological list of her full and varied career. In fact it's not even a surface scratcher. If you want to learn more, type her name into your search engine or into YouTube and investigate what is a full life in the limelight alongside the greats of the stage and silver screen.
Diana Rigg was a true powerhouse of an actor, a legendary name within the acting community and a true professional. But to me she will be that wonderfully witty soul who threw bread sticks at me and taught me to say ‘bugger’ a lot and more colourful descriptive words.
A star in the night sky has not just gone out, we’ve lost an entire constellation tonight.
‘MRS PEEL, YOU’LL ALWAYS BE NEEDED!’
Diana Rigg: 20th July 1938 – 10th September 2020