June Spencer: I'll be working on The Archers after my 100th birthday

The Archers and June Spencer
Cast and crew of The Archers wishing June Spencer a happy 100th birthday for this Friday Credit: BBC/The Archers/Twitter

In the week of her 100th birthday, June Spencer celebrated by doing what she loves best: clocking in for a day’s work on The Archers.

The actress, known to millions of Radio 4 listeners as Peggy Woolley and a stalwart of the show since the pilot episode in 1950, said she hopes to be an inspiration to older people.

“I had no idea I would ever be 100 for a start, let alone still working. But I’m jolly glad I am,” Spencer said.

“And here I am and still looking forward very much to going back the day after my birthday. Of course I have to do some more work before my birthday.

“I hope I can keep on doing it for a bit and perhaps set an example to some other old people who have just given up. They might think, ‘If that old girl can do it, then so can I’. I’m hoping that.”

Spencer said she adores working and has no plans to give up  Credit: Andrew Crowley

The Radio 4 soap will mark Spencer’s birthday with a special episode on Friday. Yesterday in the recording studio, family, friends, cast and crew presented her with a cake.

Speaking to the Today programme, Spencer said she adored going to work. “We really are like a family. It’s lovely. Even today when I go in they treat me like an old granny. All these lovely young actors saying, ‘Let me take your coat for you,’ and, ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’”

The actress was involved in one of the show’s most moving storylines when Peggy’s husband, Jack, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It mirrored Spencer’s life, as her husband, Roger, also succumbed to the disease.

Peter Arnold and June Spencer in 1991  as Jack and Peggy Credit: BBC

Spencer said that dementia had once been “brushed under the carpet” and she was pleased that the issue was being highlighted. Of the personal resonance, she said: “It was when I listened to the recordings afterwards that it got me a little bit.”

In the interview she also spoke candidly about the death of her son, David, who turned to alcoholism after losing his career. He had been a ballet dancer but was forced to give up due to injuries. His wife, with whom he performed, found a new dance partner and the marriage broke up.

“He never got over that and I’m afraid he started drinking and it took over so that he couldn’t stop. And it finally killed him,” Spencer said.

But she shared a happy memory of one of her son’s stage performances.

“When he took his solo curtain call at the end of Act II, his big act, the applause was enormous. My husband turned to me and said, ‘What’s that noise?’ I said, ‘They’re stamping their feet.’ Clapping wasn’t enough, they were stamping their feet. And that was the proudest moment of my life.”

Spencer has an OBE and CBE but her colleagues on The Archers have called for her to be made a dame. “If anyone deserves it, it’s June,” said Sunny Ormonde, who plays Peggy’s daughter, Lilian.

Carole Boyd, who plays Linda Snell, said Spencer remains the consummate professional. She told Radio Times: “She’s always early, never puts a foot wrong, never makes demands. It would be so easy for someone of her advancing age to have everybody make allowances but no, not a bit of it.

“She’s a grand old lady who isn’t a grande dame.”