Fawlty Towers/Major Gowen

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Major Gowen
Fawlty Towers
Actor Ballard Berkeley
First Appearance 1x01 - A Touch of Class
Last Appearance 2x06 - Basil the Rat
Series Billing Series: Billed
Episode Count 12
Notable Episodes 1x06 - The Germans
2x01 - Communication Problems
2x06 - Basil the Rat

Major Gowen, the longest lasting permanent resident at Fawlty Towers, is played by Ballard Berkeley, and appears in all 12 episodes of the show, achieving Billing in all of them.


Basic Information

Like Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby, Major Gowen is a permanent resident at Fawlty Towers, although the Major has been there longer than the two old dears—seven years by the time of the second season. Senile, forgetful and most likely an alcoholic, the Major often tells long, pointless stories about women he has dated and people he has known. He is a perfect old English gentlemen, with everything that entails—racism, sexism and homophobia.

Basil Fawlty has an unusual relationship with the Major, in that he seems to actually like him somewhat—at least, more than he does any other guest. Basil makes snarky comments about the Major, but rarely to his face. And he only physically harms the Major in times of immediate necessity. Otherwise, he is relatively polite and courteous, often having conversations about strikes in the news, cricket matches and women. Basil also sometimes enlists the Major's aid in his schemes—a bad idea, given the Major's forgetfulness and how easily confused he is.

John Cleese and Connie Booth reportedly both loved writing the Major, whom Cleese describes as "this guy who was in his own world. He never quite understood what was going on but always added his own insane interpretation of it."

Character History

Memorable Moments

  • 1x06 - The Germans: Manuel cleans behind the front desk and practices his English accent. Major Gowen passes by and does not see Manuel, but he sees a moose head sitting on the counter waiting to be hung up. Confused, the Major believes the voice he hears is coming from the moose head, and carries on an entire conversation with the moose head.
  • 2x01 - Communication Problems: Basil has given the Major money he won on a horse to hide it from Sybil. When Basil asks for the money back the next morning, the Major forgets, but "finds" it in front of a guest who assumes the money is hers. Just as Basil has found the guest's money and realizes he is ahead on the deal, the Major runs out to the lobby and announces, in front of the guest and Sybil, that he remembers Basil giving him the money which Basil "won ... on that horse!"
  • 2x06 - Basil the Rat: The Major spots a loose pet rat in the bar and fetches his shotgun to try to shoot it. Just as the health inspector arrives, he hears two shotgun blasts fired in the bar.


  • Actor/Character Similarity: Ballard Berkeley, who plays the Major, has something in common with his character: Just as the Major frequently updates Basil on cricket scores in the series, Berkeley used to update John Cleese on set, often hiding off-camera and holding up his fingers to announce the scores.