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Original Article

David Geoffrey Scott Northam OBE, (May 30, 1931,[1] Southampton, Hampshire—June 2, 1997,[2] London) was an English actor of stage and screen. Northam's best known portrayals were that of the title character of Lt John McGonagall in McGonagall (1966—74) and CO Gladstone Bouvier in Elite Command (1975—82). With a career spanning between four and five decades, Northam became one of the most popular television actors of his time and was also a prolific sex symbol. Northam continued to perform right up until his sudden death in 1997.

Early life and career

Born in Southampton, Hampshire, Northam was the only son of Royal Air Force flight lieutenant Geoffrey Northam (1897—1960) and his wife Carol Northam (née Salter; 1904—1988). Northam grew up in Southampton, and during World War II, his father fought with the RAF and was involved in several high-intensity operations, often situated above the Atlantic Ocean.

Northam attended school in Southampton, attending the Cantell Secondary School until the age of sixteen, at which point he dropped out of school and travelled to Guildford, Surrey, to seek training at the Guildford School of Acting, where he found himself a place. Northam trained at the Guildford School of Acting for four years before departing the Guildford School of Acting in 1951 aged 20 to pursue a professional acting career.

Northam's early stage roles were in productions by the likes of the Royal Court Theatre, London and the Royal Shakespeare Company,[3] Stratford-upon-Avon. He made his first screen appearance in 1954 with an appearance in the children's television program All Your Own.

1960s and 1970s

1980s and 1990s


He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire[4] at the New Year's Honours of 1992 by Queen Elizabeth II.

Sex symbol

During his run on McGonagall during the early—1970s, Northam was listed as a "sex symbol" by tabloid, who votes him at number two in their "100 Sexiest Sex Symbols of the Year '74" poll, just losing out to Patrick McGoohan. Since being rated, Northam continued to be rated as a sex symbol, and in 1980, when asked to pose naked for Hello magazine, Northam replied stating "If I had wanted to pose naked for the cameras I would've become a model, not an actor." His character Lt John McGonagall was also rated one of the sexiest television characters of the century.

Personal life

Northam was married twice during his lifetime. He married Sylvia Byrne in 1964, and had three children with her: William, Patricia and Coleen. Northam's eldest son William is also an actor. Northam and Byrne had a twenty-year long marriage, which ended abruptly in 1984. Northam then met Fiona Maguire in 1991, whom he lived with before marrying in 1995. However, their marriage was cut short at two-years due to Northam's untimely death in 1997.

Northam was a prolific smoker of expensive Cuban cigars, which would eventually lead to his death. Northam's other interests included tennis, football, rugby, walking, reading and jogging.


A heavy smoker of tobacco for a large part of his life, Northam suffered from high cholesterol in later years and he eventually died suddenly from a heart attack on the 2 June 1997, two days after his 66th birthday. He had previously been treated in hospital for a respiratory infection. Northam was cremated and his ashes were buried with those of his parents in Southampton.

List of works





  1. Famous People Born in 1931. Famous Why. Retrieved 2012-11-18
  2. Celebrity Deaths in 1997. Sympatico. Retrieved 2012-11-18
  3. Royal Shakespeare Company | RSC | Theatre Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. Retrieved 3 November 2012
  4. New Year honours list | UK news. The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-11-18

External links

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