Ronnie Corbett 'didn't want friends to see his motor neurone disease battle'


Ronnie Corbett did not want his friend Jimmy Tarbuck to see him as he suffered from a form of motor neurone disease, the comedian has said.

The diminutive star died on Thursday aged 85 as officials were reportedly considering honouring him with a knighthood.

It is understood a panel that bestows the titles had received letters from famous names in support of his nomination, and if approved the actor and comedian could have become Sir Ronnie in the Queen's 90th Birthday Honours.

It has also emerged that Corbett had been unwell and was diagnosed with a suspected form of motor neurone disease.

Tarbuck, 76, fought back tears as he told Good Morning Britain he was aware of Corbett's illness.

Asked if he knew he had motor neurone disease, Tarbuck said: "Yes I did know he wasn't very well, and I knew exactly... sorry I'm getting a bit choked... what he had.

"And he didn't want to see you. He said 'I don't want to see you like this', but I'd speak to him on the phone. And when you did anything with him or for him, you always got a letter from him, that's how correct he was. But yes I did know, unfortunately, that he wasn't very well."

Writing in the Daily Mail, a friend of the entertainer, Michael Thornton, said he contacted the Cabinet Office to propose a knighthood "several months ago".

He said there was a "virtual stampede on the part of celebrated figures" when it came to gathering letters in support of the nomination.

At the time Corbett was "fighting to survive" after being diagnosed with suspected amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - a form of motor neurone disease, Mr Thornton said.

According to the Daily Telegraph, a low-key campaign led by comedian David Walliams to include Corbett on the Queen's Birthday Honours List was launched amid concerns over his deteriorating health.

Downton Abbey creator Lord Fellowes, who sits on the arts and media honours committee, told the newspaper he thought "he [Corbett] should have been awarded a knighthood", although he refused to discuss the workings of the panel.

The entertainer's first honour came in 1978 when he was made an OBE alongside comedy partner Ronnie Barker, the pair household favourites at the time for their sketch show The Two Ronnies.

In 2011, Corbett said he did not imagine he would receive a knighthood, adding that Barker, who died in 2005, should have been made Sir Ronnie.

Corbett was made a CBE in 2012, and the knighthood some felt he also deserved eluded him.

Speaking in 2015, Sir Bruce Forsyth questioned why figures from the world of comedy "seem to be left out".