Pam St. Clement fought back tears on Friday morning as she expressed her sadness at not seeing close friend and former EastEnders co-star Dame Barbara Windsor for almost a year before her death to Alzheimer’s disease aged 83.
The screen legend’s passing was confirmed by her husband Scott Mitchell shortly after she lost her six-year battle with the degenerative illness at a London care home on Thursday evening.
Appearing remotely on This Morning from her Oxfordshire home, Pam, 78, admitted it was Scott who kept her informed of Dame Barbara’s deteriorating condition after COVID restrictions contrived to keep her away.
Regret: Pam St. Clement fought back tears on Friday morning as she expressed her sadness at not seeing close friend Dame Barbara Windsor for almost a year before her death
She said: ‘We’ve stayed in close contact. He’s kept me up to speed as it were with everything that’s been happening.
‘I’ve been out of the country for much of this year so I couldn’t visit her, well nobody could visit her with the lockdowns and everything, it was impossible, which is sad in a sense because it means I haven’t seen her for nearly a year, and that is a sadness to me.’
Barbara made her first appearance as Peggy Mitchell in 1994, and Pam – who played screen nemesis Pat Butcher – admitted she “felt like curtsying” when her co-star arrived on set.
Bond: Pam enjoyed a close friendship with Dame Barbara that extended beyond their time together on BBC soap EastEnders
Candid: Appearing remotely on This Morning from her Oxfordshire home, Pam admitted it was Dame Barbara’s husband Scott who kept her informed of her friend’s deteriorating condition
She said: ‘It was such an extraordinary thing when we knew Barbara was coming into the show. I felt like curtsying when she came in.
‘She said to me, “Please tell me if I’m not doing anything right.” She probably had more experience behind a bar than I did.’
Pam also shared her fond memories of the EastEnders love triangle between their characters and their late co-star Mike Reid’s character Frank Butcher.
Absent: ‘I’ve been out of the country for much of this year so I couldn’t visit her, well nobody could visit her with the lockdowns and everything, it was impossible,’ she said
Rivals: Dame Barbara’s Peggy Mitchell and Pam’s Pat Butcher were frequently at loggerheads, but off-screen the actresses were best friends
When asked what her overriding memory of Barbara was, Pam said: ‘All those wonderful scenes that were written for Pat and Peggy, particularly over the love story with Frank.
‘We had such fun, we had such good times. We both had the same work ethic, and we just got in there and did it.’
The actress – who was made a Dame in 2016 – announced she was suffering from Alzheimer’s in 2018, having been diagnosed four years earlier. She moved to a care home in July.
Old times: Pam also shared her fond memories of the EastEnders love triangle between their characters and their late co-star Mike Reid’s character Frank Butcher
Looking back: ‘We had such fun, we had such good times. We both had the same work ethic, and we just got in there and did it,’ she said of their working relationship
In a tribute released shortly after her death, husband Scott – who remained by her side until the very end – said: ‘Her passing was from Alzheimer’s/dementia and Barbara eventually died peacefully and I spent the last seven days by her side.
‘Myself, her family and friends will remember Barbara with love, a smile and affection for the many years of her love, fun, friendship and brightness she brought to all our lives and the entertainment she gave to so many thousands of others during her career.
‘Barbara’s final weeks were typical of how she lived her life. Full of humour, drama and a fighting spirit until the end.
‘It was not the ending that Barbara or anyone else living with this very cruel disease deserve. I will always be immensely proud of Barbara’s courage, dignity and generosity dealing with her own illness and still trying to help others by raising awareness for as long as she could.’
Farewell: Dame Barbara’s husband Scott Mitchell, 57, confirmed she passed away at 8.35pm on Thursday evening at a London care home following a six-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease
Scott, who alongside his wife campaigned for greater dementia care from the Government, added: ‘Dementia/Alzheimer’s remains the UKs number one killer.
‘Although in challenging times, I urge the Prime Minister, his government and other parties to be true to their previous promises and invest more into dementia/Alzheimer’s research and care.
‘Thank you to all the doctors, nurses and carers who are angels at the care home for your kindness and care to Barbara and I throughout her stay with you. You are my heroes.
‘And my gratitude to our family, friends and everyone in the media and the general public for all the good wishes and warm support that has been shown to Barbara over the last few years during her illness. Barbara deeply appreciated that.’
At the end of his moving tribute, he said: ‘May you rest in peace now my precious Bar. I’ve lost my wife, my best friend and soul mate and my heart or life will never feel the same without you.
‘I will be making no further statements and now need the time to grieve this painful, personal loss.’