You silly arse!

I was sad to hear of the death, aged 79, of the sprightly Ray Alan, who was the number one ventriloquist when I was a boy, rarely off the TV, with either Lord Charles or Tich and Quackers at his elbow. An entertainer of the old school – he performed magic and played the ukulele before moving into ventriloquism – he learned his licks touring the cabaret clubs and theatres of the world, before transferring easily and naturally to television, where he did turns and also hosted his own shows, especially for kids.

A South-east London boy, he lived in Reigate, as did I for a couple of years, and you would often see him out walking, with his wife Jane. I was lucky enough to see him speak and meet him at the 2004 Annual Tony Hancock Appreciation Society dinner in Bournemouth, at which I took these photos. The guests queued around the ballroom to get their menu cards signed by Ray and June Whitfield, the other star speaker, and initially I resisted joining the herd. My resistance proved futile, and I eventually joined the end of the line, playing the Reigate card with him and getting my menu signed. I’m glad I did now.

Raymond Alan, 1930-2010: very nice Guardian obit by Dennis Barker here.

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4 thoughts on “You silly arse!

  1. I shared a few bills with Ray Alan back when I was performing with an “Old Time Music Hall” show. Lots of brilliant old pros & really enjoyable.

    He was sharp as a tack, a technically great vent, and a funny, funny man.

    Once, after chatting to him in my dressing room, he nipped out, leaving Lord Charles laying lifelessly on my dressing room table – fully aware of how much an inanimate vent doll freaks people out.

    After a few minutes of me attempting to stare out the doll out and failing, he came back in and tried to convince me that when he had put the doll down, the head was facing the other way and when I wasn’t looking Lord Charles must have moved. “Sometimes happens, just one of those things” he said with a wink.

  2. My gran and grandfather would often see him on the streets of Reigate in the 60’s and 70’s. In fact ‘silly arse’ was a popular epithet ‘down that way’ for a long time and stayed within our extended family as a gentle put-down as I was growing up.

    Until your blog entry Andrew, I’d completely forgotten his ‘catch phrase’.

    It makes me smile even today (and brings back a lot of other warm memories).

    ‘Gawd blessim’

  3. I am so sad to hear Ray’s gone. Lord Charles was a creation of absolute genius without whom there’d have been no Chuck’n’ Bob in ‘Soap’. He brightened my childhood (even when I KNEW there was more to the joke than I ‘knew’.). What a lovely man.

  4. I loved watching him in the 70’s growing up. He was a fabulous vent, but as well being technically brilliant, he was also very funny. I always thought that Ray Alan and Lord Charles ever had a child, it would grow up to look like Bob Holness…
    So, are you a member of The THAS, Andrew?

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