Bernard Atha – a man of many parts

Alumni news

The University was saddened to learn of the death of distinguished alum Bernard Atha (Law 1949) – actor, lawyer, councillor, former Lord Mayor of Leeds – and a long-standing friend of the University.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, Bernard was a well-known face on TV and cinema screens, appearing in northern dramas such as Coronation Street, Emmerdale Farm, The Beiderbecke Affair, Last of the Summer Wine and All Creatures Great and Small. In Ken Loach’s seminal film Kes, he played the careers master who dismissed Billy’s job prospects.

He pursued his acting career alongside his legal career and long service as a local Labour councillor. He was first elected to Leeds City Council in 1957 for the City ward, and represented Holbeck from 1969 to 73 and Kirkstall from 1973 to 2014. 

He was elected as Lord Mayor of the city in 2000 and hosted the visit of Nelson Mandela the following year. As an active figure in arts circles, he was instrumental in the opening of Leeds Playhouse and the creation of the Northern Ballet.

He died on Saturday after a short illness, aged 94.