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BBC soap legend June Spencer retires at age 103

<i>Michael Stephens/PA Images/Getty Images/FILE</i><br/>In 1991
PA Images via Getty Images
Michael Stephens/PA Images/Getty Images/FILE
In 1991

By Toyin Owoseje, CNN

June Spencer, the last original cast member of BBC Radio 4 drama “The Archers,” has retired from the show after more than 70 years, at the age of 103.

The British soap legend, who played matriarch Peggy Woolley (formerly Archer), made her debut in the first-ever episode of the much-loved drama in 1951.

Her final performance was broadcast on July 31.

“In 1950 I helped to plant an acorn. It took root and in January 1951 it was planted out and called ‘The Archers,'” Spencer said in a statement on the BBC website. “Over the years it has thrived and become a splendid great tree with many branches.”

Explaining her decision to leave the show after seven decades, she said: “This old branch, known as Peggy, has become weak and unsafe so I decided it was high time she ‘boughed’ out, so I have duly lopped her.”

Spencer, who received a lifetime achievement award at the BBC audio drama awards in 2014, said in an interview with the UK’s Telegraph newspaper on Monday that she had been “trying to retire for at least a year” but the show didn’t want to lose her character.

Jeremy Howe, editor of “The Archers,” described working with Spencer as “one of the greatest privileges of my many decades in drama.”

In the BBC statement, he praised her as “an inventive, focused and technically brilliant actor, or such a lovely person.”

Howe added: “Myself and The Archers team and cast wish June a well-deserved and long retirement — and I know that if she doesn’t think the show is up to the mark, June will be letting us know. Bravo the legend that is June Spencer.”

Among Spencer’s fans is Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who made a cameo appearance as herself in the 60th-anniversary episode of “The Archers” in 2011. In a statement, she hailed Spencer as “a true national treasure who has been part of my life, and millions of others, for as long as I can remember.”

Spencer was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1991. In 2010, she received the freedom of the City of London, and she was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s 2017 birthday honors for services to drama and charity.

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