Neighbours stalwart Harold Bishop is to return to Ramsay Street 15 years after his departure as a regular character, it has been announced.

The fan favourite, played by Ian Smith, will be back in the Australian soap and its opening titles at the age of 85.

An announcement on the Neighbours X account said: “After 15 years of living away, the legendary Harold Bishop is returning to Erinsborough.

“We are thrilled to welcome Ian Smith back to the show and the opening titles, where he belongs.”

Smith first appeared on the show in 1987 as an old flame of Madge Mitchell (Anne Charleston).

His character was only supposed to be in a few episodes but ended up staying until 1991, when Harold was washed out to sea while on holiday.

In 1996, Smith returned to the show and remained until 2009.

During that time, Harold had his house burgled by a gambling-addicted girlfriend, suffered a stroke that completely altered his personality, and tried to strangle the man he blamed for the plane crash that killed his son.

The character has made brief guest appearances in the soap since his exit, but this is the first time since 2009 that Smith’s return has seemed permanent.

The veteran actor had previously told Australian programme TV Tonight that he wanted to retire.

Potential storylines for Harold are still unknown, though some have speculated that the actor’s previous statements about retirement and age may indicate he will be involved in plans by Terese Willis (Rebekah Elmaloglou) and Jane Harris (Annie Jones) to establish a retirement community.

Despite a non-continuous show run, Smith is the longest-serving actor on Neighbours, having first appeared 37 years ago.

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