Islington Tribune
Publications by New Journal Enterprises
  Home Archive Competition Jobs Tickets Accommodation Dating Contact us
Islington Tribune - by CHARLOTTE CHAMBERS
Published: 17 July 2009

Andrew Downie: died three weeks after the fall
Freak escalator fall led to actor’s death

Brain injury claims life of Tower Theatre director

A REGULAR face on popular television shows for more than 50 years died after a fall on escalators at Highbury and Islington Tube station, an inquest heard this week.
Andrew Downie, 86, had worked with actors including Alec Guinness, John Mills and Gladys Cooper but was better known for regular appearances on television institutions such as Doctor Who, The Sweeney, Monarch of the Glen and Dr Finlay’s Casebook.
Mr Downie, who lived with his wife Marion in Grange Grove, Canonbury, and was a director at the Tower Theatre group in Canonbury for more than 20 years and a member of the Savage Club for 30 years, died in April from a brain swelling caused by bleeding.
Three weeks earlier he had slipped and fallen down the stairs at Highbury and Islington station in a freak accident.
St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard on Tuesday that Mr Downie probably fell to the base of the “up” escalator from around the half-way point, although no one saw him slip and CCTV that could have captured the moment had been recorded over.
By the time police came to investigate the accident three weeks later, when Mr Downie died, the tape had been recorded over in accordance with the Tube station’s two-week cycle.
Officers ruled out foul play after tracking down and interviewing witnesses.
Bizarrely, Mr Downie’s doctor was one of the first on the scene, as he happened to be passing, but despite giving paramedics Mr Downie’s medical history he couldn’t be saved and later died.
According to reports read out in court, doctors at the Whittington Hospital in Archway had regularly spoken to head injury experts at the Queen Square National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery but were repeatedly advised that operating would be too dangerous.
His wife Marion Studholme, a principal singer with Sadler’s Wells and the English National Opera who met him at the Royal College of Music, moved to Islington with her Scottish-born husband in the 1950s and lived in Grange Grove for more than 50 years.
She told the court although her husband had “slowed down” in his later years, he still did occasional work and “was always going out,” including regular trips to their weekend home to play golf.
On the night of his fall, he was returning from an annual general meeting at the members-only arts club, the Savage Club, in Embankment.
She said: “I know he wasn’t drunk from the way he was talking to me later in hospital.
“We were doing the crossword quite happily. At the time we thought he’d be home the next day – it was as light as that.”
Speaking outside court, she described the tragedy as “an unhappy accident”.
Coroner Gail Elliman accepted evidence from pathologist Dr Freddy Patel that he died from a traumatic subdural haematoma and returned a verdict of accidental death.
“Clearly the fall led to his death,” she said.
Friend and actor at Tower Theatre Tom Tillery, 73, who had been directed in several plays by Mr Downie, said: “He was very sociable and always full of stories.
“He liked to charge about and followed [theatre impresario] Tyrone Guthrie’s dictum to use an actor’s natural traits rather than imposing something preconceived.
“He brought professionalism to the theatre and taught us amateurs how to do it.”

Comment on this article.
(You must supply your full name and email address for your comment to be published)







Theatre Music
Arts & Events Attractions