Tributes paid to Heartbeat author

Peter Walker, who has died aged 80.
Peter Walker, who has died aged 80.

Tributes have been paid to Peter Walker, the author of the books behind the Heartbeat TV series, who died aged 80.

Mr Walker, who wrote under the pen name Nicholas Rhea, was best known for the Constable stories, which provided the inspiration for the hugely popular Heartbeat television series, and he remained involved with the series as a consultant until filming ended in 2009.

Tributes to him were led by Keith Richardson, the long-time head of drama at Yorkshire TV, for whom Heartbeat was an enduring hit, extending to 372 episodes over 18 seasons.

“Heartbeat was a huge success because it reflected all the qualities that made Peter himself special,” Mr Richardson said. “He had a real passion for people, a real understanding of people and all their frailties, a genuine love of the countryside and a deep desire to keep all these elements together and respected. He will be much missed.”

Holby City actor Joe McFadden, who made his name as Heartbeat’s PC Joe Mason, tweeted: “RIP Nicholas Rhea, Yorkshire author of the Constable books which inspired TV show Heartbeat.”

Crime writer David Stuart Davies added: “So very sad to hear of the passing of crime writer Peter Walker (aka Nicholas Rhea) Mr Heartbeat. A clever writer and great bloke.”

Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, acknowledged the impact of his stories on the county’s tourist economy.

“The show’s huge success meant images of our wonderful county were beamed into living rooms across the world and millions of people will be as saddened by his passing as we are.” Sir Gary said.

“Peter was a great ambassador for Yorkshire and we loved his writing and Heartbeat, so much so that Welcome to Yorkshire sponsored the programme.”

Mr Walker was born in the village of Glaisdale, to an insurance agent and a teacher. He won a scholarship to Whitby Grammar but left at 16 to become a police cadet in the town.

The characters he met on the beat were the ones who would later live in Aidensfield: the grouchy rogue Claude Greengrass and the put-upon desk sergeant, Oscar Blaketon.

The Constable books drew on his own experiences as a local bobby for a small Yorkshire village in the 1960s.

Heartbeat was filmed predominantly in Goathland, which formed the setting for the village of Aidensfield.

It all started back in 1979 when his first police story, Constable on the Hill, was serialised in the Sunday Express newspaper.

But it was 13 years later when the television cameras arrived in Goathland and Whitby where they remained a regular fixture in the area until 2009.

He was still writing a few weeks ago when the prostate cancer with which he had been diagnosed ten years ago returned.

He is survived by his wife and four grown-up children.