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.