The Australian soap Neighbours has come to an end, with the final episode airing this summer.
The show has been on our little screens for nearly four decades, gaining legions of fans, and has been a regular feature of Channel 5’s schedule for the past decade.
However, Fremantle Media, the production company behind the legendary sunshine-filled soap, has been unable to find a new home for the show after Channel 5 opted to cancel it, citing a desire to focus its investment in original UK drama, for which there was a strong hunger among fans.
Since its debut in March 1985, Neighbours has been full of well-loved characters and has propelled the careers of numerous performers, including superstars like Jason Donovan, Kylie Minogue, and Craig McLachlan.
The Ramsay Street stories have produced some of television’s most memorable moments, such as Scott and Charlene’s wedding, Harold’s comeback, and Toadfish’s wedding; there has even been a dream sequence in which Labrador dog Bouncer marries Rosie the Border Collie from next door.
There have been real-life dramas involving the cast members throughout the past 40 years, and here we look at some of the more prominent characters who have died while the soap was on the air.
Cathy Godbold (Sondra Pike)
In 1997, the Australian actress was cast as Sondra Pike, best known for her roles as Deborah Hale Regnery in The Saddle Club and Meg Bowman in Home and Away.
Godbold was diagnosed with brain cancer and had a tumour removed, followed by chemotherapy, but in January 2018, he got a second brain tumour, which proved to be fatal.
She passed away on May 4, 2018, at the age of 43, and was buried alongside her mother.
Gwen Plumb (Mrs Forbes)
Gwen Plumb began her acting career in 1930, with her first high-profile appearance as Emmie in Blue Hills, Australia’s longest-running radio serial.
Plumb is most known for playing Ada Simmonds in the Australian serial opera The Young Doctors from 1976 to 1983. In 1980, she launched a cookbook under her character’s name, What’s Cooking with Ada.
In 1985, she played Mrs. Forbes in Neighbours, alongside Alan Dale, with whom she had previously performed in The Young Doctors. She died in 2002, at the age of 89.
Johnny Lockwood (Harry Henderson)
After immigrating to Australia, the British variety performer, comedian, and actor became well-known in Australia, where he played Harry Henderson, Daphne Lawrence’s grandfather, in Neighbours in 1985-86.
Lockwood, who served in the Royal Air Force from 1942 to 1944, died at a nursing facility in New South Wales in 2013, at the age of 92.
Miranda Fryer (Sky Mangel)
Sky Mangel, the daughter of Joe Mangel and Kerry Bishop, was played by the former child actor for three years before passing away in 2022 at the age of 34.
Fryer died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Glen Iris, Melbourne, where she had been suffering from heart problems, according to her relatives.
Fryer, the first child performer to be signed to the show, debuted in 1989 at the age of 18 months, alongside her on-screen parents, Mark Little and Linda Hartley-Clark.
Steward Adam (Aaron Barkley)
Adam, who starred as mechanic Aaron Barkley in the Australian drama Neighbours from 2003 to 2004, died abruptly in 2004 at the age of 24 from a blood clot.
The actor became ill at his parents’ house and died on the way to the hospital, with a post-mortem identifying deep vein thrombosis as the cause.
When his death was announced in the Green Room, his Neighbours colleagues were believed to be stunned.
Myra de Groot (Eileen Clarke)
In 1985, Myra de Groot, a native of London’s East End, was cast as the meddling Eileen Clarke.
Her role was only supposed to be on the show for a week, but de Groot gave the producers an enlarged storyline, and she quickly became a fixture, arriving on a semi-regular basis with a loud shout of “Desmond” to her put-upon son Des.
Her saddened co-stars, including Craig McLachlan, Jason Donovan, and Anne Charleston, paid tribute to her after she died of cancer at the age of 50 in 1988.
Val Jellay (Connie O’Rourke)
Jellay’s theatrical career began in vaudeville with the Tivoli circuit in Australia, but she eventually moved into radio, film, and television, including appearances in the TV series The Flying Doctors with her actor husband Maurie Fields.
In 2000, she played Connie O’Rourke in the Australian soap opera Neighbours, and she has starred in a number of other Australian soap operas as a guest star.
Jellay died in May 2017 as a result of pneumonia complications. She was 89 years old at the time.
Francis Bell (Max Ramsay)
Wayne Francis Earl Bell, to give him his full name, was a New Zealand-born actor who rose to fame in the early years of Neighbours as the original character Max Ramsay.
He also appeared in the Australian serials The Sullivans and Sons and Daughters, as well as 15 films between 1976 and 1994, when he died after falling from a building in Auckland. He was 50 years old at the time.
Ernie Bourne (Rob Lewis)
Bourne’s career as an actor, entertainer, comedian, and puppeteer extended 50 years, including his most well-known performance as prison chef Mervin Pringle in Prisoner.
Bourne, who starred in Neighbours from 1987 to 1989 as garage mechanic Rob Lewis, died in 2009 at the age of 82.
Anne Haddy (Helen Daniels)
Haddy played matriarch Helen Daniels on the show from 1985 to 1997, starring in over 1,600 episodes. She was the show’s longest-serving actor and the only one who had been with it since the first episode until she left.
In 1987, she won the Penguin Award for Sustained Performance by an Actor in a Series for her portrayal of Helen.
Helen is the only one of the soap’s characters to have had two love interests played by the same actor: James Condon, who played both Douglas Blake and Reuben White and was also the real-life husband of actress Anne, who died in 1999 at the age of 68, played both Douglas Blake and Reuben White.
Gerda Nicolson (Robyn Taylor)
Nicolson, an Australian theatrical and television actress, is best known for her portrayal as the new governor of the Wentworth Detention Centre in the soap opera Prisoner.
She starred in ten episodes of Neighbours in 1989 as Robyn Taylor, a character who almost had an affair with Harold Bishop.
After collapsing in her dressing room prior to going on stage for a theatre performance, Nicolson died in 1992 at the age of 54.