Returning to the backbenches, Heath was vocally critical of Thatcherism. He remained a backbench MP until retiring at the 2001 election, serving as the Father of the House for his last nine years in Parliament. Outside politics, Heath was a world-class yachtsman and a talented musician. He died in 2005, aged 89. He is one of only four British prime ministers never to have married.
Edward Heath was born at 54 Albion Road, Broadstairs, Kent on 9 July 1916, the son of William George Heath (1888–1976), a carpenter who built air frames for Vickers during the First World War, and was subsequently employed as a builder and Edith Anne Heath (née Pantony; 1888–1951), a maid. His father was later a successful small businessman after taking over a building and decorating firm. Heath's paternal grandfather had run a small dairy business, and when that failed worked as a porter at Broadstairs Station on the Southern Railway. Heath was known as "Teddy" as a young man. He was educated at Chatham House Grammar School in Ramsgate, and in 1935 with the aid of a county scholarship he went up to study at Balliol College, Oxford.
In later years, Heath's peculiar accent, with its "strangulated" vowel sounds, combined with his non-Standard pronunciation of "l" as "w" and "out" as "eout", was satirised by Monty Python in the audio sketch "Teach Yourself Heath" (released on a 7" flexi-disc single included with initial copies of their 1972 LP Monty Python's Previous Record. Heath's biographer John Campbell speculates that his speech, unlike that of his father and younger brother, who both spoke with Kent accents, must have undergone "drastic alteration on encountering Oxford", although retaining elements of Kent speech.