An interview with John Lyons (aka George Toolan) from the TV series A Touch of Frost
Golfer, and long term friend of The Social Golfer, John, told us why he started playing golf, his funniest moments on a golf course and of course, how he got started as an ‘ac-tor!’ We’re calling it, the John Lyons interview.
When did you first take up golf and what attracted you to the sport?
In my twenties, while working in the Theatre at night, I would go out on my own and play. To my surprise, I slowly got the hang of it and began to think I might be quite good. Then, along came a family and, I’m glad to say, plenty of acting work, which meant Golf went out the window. Finally, my bag of clubs got stolen and that was that for the next sixty years.
Where do you play golf and who with?
Whenever I can, I would play with my dear friend Mark Crane. Most of the time at Cobtree Golf Club down in Kent. Although we do seem to move around a lot, mainly looking for clubs that have buggies in the Winter. My old legs won’t let me walk eighteen holes anymore.
What is your most memorable round of golf and why?
That would be four years ago up at Gleneagles. It was a charity golf day and for only the second time in my golfing career, I got a birdie. In the evening, I was handed a Gleneagles badge to wear on my bag. Nobody ever mentions it though.
Who is your favourite golfer and why?
Without a doubt, the one and only Seve Ballesteros. Not only was he a skilful player, but a man of great personality. I did once have the great honour to meet him at a charity golf event in Surrey. We shook hands, and he patted me on the head. I was hoping something would rub off. Sadly, it didn’t.
The funniest thing that has happened to you on a golf course?
Well, it wasn’t very funny to me, but the other three in our foursome had a good laugh. It was a cold wet winters day and I had forgotten my golf shoes. The course itself had a few slopes on the journey which meant that with no spikes, every time I went down a slope, I finished on my bum, to the great delight of all.
John celebrating a 'Chip-in-Birdie' at Warley Park Golf Club with TSGers
Where did you get your first break in theatre/TV?
I left Drama school in 1964 and went straight into a series called “Catch-hand” with Anthony Booth. This was followed by a tour of this country and Europe with the Musical, “Oh, What a Lovely War”, alongside my dear friend, Nigel Hawthorne, for just over two years.
Who is the actor you most admired growing up and who should we look out for in the future?
That would have to be the great American actor “Spencer Tracy”. He made acting look so easy. Today, we have Anthony Hopkins – another actor who makes it look like he is not acting. Seems easy, but it’s very hard to do.
If you had to pick a medium, what would your favourite be – TV, Radio, Film, Theatre or Panto?
Most actors would always say “Theatre”. The audience brings a lot to it, especially Panto (for me this year, Baron Hardup in Lowestoft). Plus, you have more time to rehearse and the chance to do it again the next night. In the world of TV, it’s all over and done within a short time, and no chance of improving on it.
Are you still in touch with David Jason and do you meet up regularly?
David is a very private man who doesn’t come to London that often nowadays. He lives way out in Buckinghamshire and I’m on the east side of London. It’s just over a year since we last met, so we are reduced to e-mails and cards.
According to the IMDB website, you starred in the seminal movie, The Blues Brother. Can you confirm or deny this is true?
I have no Idea where they get their Information. They have me appearing in “Blues Brothers”, “Spooks”, “Shameless”, “Action Jackson” and a few more. I have never been in any of those. I think there is an American actor with the same name and I get some of his credits. I wonder if he gets some of mine. Would be funny if he was credited with some of my early ones. “On the Buses” or “George & Mildred”, among others!
Finally, we believe you published a biography earlier this year called ‘Not Just George’. Which chapter of the book did you most enjoy writing and why?
Yes, “Not just George”. The part of the book I enjoyed writing most was my early childhood. It did bring back many memories, some good, some not so good. I had been asked to write it a few times in the past but didn’t think I had the patience. Then along came ‘lockdown’ and with the pushing of my agent, I sat myself down and began. Once I started, of course, I really began to enjoy the process. I’m glad to say quite a lot of people have also enjoyed reading it.
‘Not Just George’ is available on Kindle & Paperback at…