Gabriel - Confidante or Con man?
have voted Nelson Gabriel (played
by the late Jack May, left) the
greatest rogue in Archers history. There's
a brief biography of the character below.
May was almost as much of a character as the man he played. Some
of his Archers colleagues remember him.
Rogues - the poll results
the Rogues Quiz
the only son of Walter and Annie Gabriel, descendants of an ancient Ambridge
family. He did his National Service in the RAF and then signed on as a
regular and served abroad, reaching the rank of Sergeant. He returned
home in 1961 with an incongruously fruity accent and (with a friend and
some of Walters money) set up an engineering business in Borchester.
Then in 1966 he and Tony Stobeman opened a casino and betting shop - an
absolute mint which allowed Nelson to live in some luxury in Borchester.
doing so well that he took his dad on a cruise but he left Walter and
took a flight home. The plane was reported missing and to Walters
horror, Nelson was assumed dead. While he was missing in 1967, there was
a notorious raid on the Borchester mail van. After the robbery the police
raided Pauntons Farm and said that fingerprints found on an empty
scotch bottle were identical to prints taken from Nelsons flat.
Could this mean that Nelson was still alive? Walter said that Nelson would
never be so heartless as to fake his death and so break his fathers
1968 Nelson is returned to England, having been tracked down by Interpol
(no one knows where he had been in the interim). He appeared before magistrates
in Borchester where they were told that he had visited Pauntons
Farm the night before the robbery and had been referred to as "Boss"
by criminal Charles Brown. Nelson was committed for trial at the Assizes.
They moved him to Gloucester jail where Walter visited him. Nelson convinced
Walter that he was innocent and had been framed. And indeed, at his trial
Nelson was found not guilty and freed.
By 1977 Nelson
had moved to London and then Spain where he had some villas built. His
fortunes were volatile, but he always seemed to recover and would visit
Walter from time to time either staying at his flat, Grey Gables or The
Bull - depending on the state of his finances at the time.
Nelson returned to Borchester, buying an old warehouse which he converted
into a wine bar - the eponymous Nelsons. In 1981 the shop next door
came up for sale. He planned a sauna, asking Clarrie to be a masseuse
but furious Eddie forbade it. As his initial business plan didnt
work out, he opened an antique shop instead - a natural alternative use
(!) Over the next four years, Nelson was occasionally accused of involvement
in antique dealers price-fixing rings, but no charges ever stuck
to Ambridges Mr Teflon.
at Nelsons included Shula, Mark, Caroline, Nigel and Elizabeth.
Nelson proved a valiant confidante to all the young people at this time
- especially Elizabeth, perhaps his favourite. But in November 1984, Nelson
shut up the wine bar and vanished. There was a rumour that he had been
seen on a television a news report from South America, but only a few
months later he was back.
been a friend of Julia Pargetter since she was a patron of his casino
along with The Goodmans. In 1992 when Elizabeth and Nigel were finding
Julia difficult, Nelson came to the rescue and they spent more and more
time together. In 1996, Julia had had enough of Elizabeth and moved into
Nelsons spare room. She started to take over his life, telling him
what to eat and how to decorate the wine bar. In one of the most hilarious
and memorable episodes in Nelsons life, Julia became very understanding
when she discovered a pair of red high-heeled shoes (Nelsons size)
in his closet. He strung her along until eventually revealing that he
was playing an Ugly Sister (alongside her son) in the village panto.
far-from-ugly sister Ellen joined them and his little cottage became very
crowded as the two women vied for his attention before eventually returning
to Ellens home in Spain. Nelson joined them for Christmas 1997 and
that was the last the village saw of him.
to the last
bar closed, despite (or perhaps because of) Kentons caretaker management,
Honeysuckle Cottage was repossessed, and eventually in March 2001 came
the news that he had died in Argentina. The circumstances of his death
were as mysterious as much of his life.
He was the
rogue with the heart of gold. When he was 57, he pretended to be over
60 in order to take Mrs Perkins to the Over 60s tea dance at Grey
Gables. He planted beetroot in his garden at Honeysuckle Cottage even
though he hated the stuff, because Tom Forrest had insisted that Walter,
who had died five years previously, would like it if beetroot continued
to be grown in the garden.
thought that it amusing that, when you are dead, people remember you as
Perhaps not in his case, but oh boy is he remembered.
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