What­ever hap­pened to...?

Dis­cov­er­ing what be­came of per­son­al­i­ties from the past

Evergreen - - Summer 2018 - Gil­lie Pot­ter Rose­mary Leach & Arthur Mar­shall

Ge­off Clin­ton from Newick, near Lewes in Sus­sex, en­quired about Gil­lie Pot­ter. Fa­mous on the ra­dio dur­ing the Thir­ties and the Sec­ond World War, he sur­vived into the For­ties and early Fifties be­fore his style of hu­mour eva­po­rated.

Born Hugh Wil­liam Peel at Bed­ford in 1887 he be­came in­volved in mu­sic hall af­ter he left Ox­ford, and in 1915 un­der­stud­ied Ge­orge Robey. Af­ter wartime ser­vice he re­turned to the the­atre and mu­sic hall, and spoke to his au­di­ence in a sar­cas­tic dead­pan tone about all kinds of silly themes which he mocked mer­ci­lessly but in an as­sumed se­ri­ous man­ner. He also al­luded to his­tor­i­cal facts, in­clud­ing the Clas­sics so he was not al­ways easy to fol­low un­less you were ex­tremely well- ed­u­cated.

Nev­er­the­less, he was very pop­u­lar and ap­peared in the 1930 Royal Com­mand Per­for­mance af­ter which he be­came known as “The man who made the Queen laugh”. He is also re­mem­bered for in­vari­ably introducing him­self with the phrase “Good evening Eng­land. This is Gil­lie Pot­ter speak­ing to you in English”. He also pre­tended to broad­cast from the myth­i­cal vil­lage of Hogsnor­ton, re­put­edly based in Ox­ford­shire, “where hogs played on the or­gan”. When the BBC took over Wood Nor­ton Hall near Eve­sham in Worces­ter­shire dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, how­ever, it was mock­ingly re­ferred to as Hogsnor­ton.

Al­ways of the opin­ion that moral stan­dards were de­clin­ing, es­pe­cially those of the BBC, in later life he cam­paigned for an in­de­pen­dent tele­vi­sion chan­nel and even con­tem­plated stand­ing for Par­lia­ment as an in­de­pen­dent.

Unashamedly pa­tri­otic, Pot­ter had a huge li­brary and was an ex­pert on her­aldry, church his­tory and ge­neal­ogy. He died in 1975, only six years be­fore his son, J. H. B. Peel, the au­thor and jour­nal­ist who wrote about the coun­try­side for The Daily Tele­graph.

Al­though his es­o­teric and cool wit­ti­cisms even­tu­ally left him high and dry they have by no means

dis­ap­peared al­to­gether. A few con­tem­po­rary co­me­di­ans stand apart from the rau­cous and of­ten crude com­mon stand- ups, to­gether with some older well- ed­u­cated comics such as Michael Palin whose way with words would have pleased Gil­lie Pot­ter.

One of his suc­ces­sors who over­lapped briefly was Arthur Mar­shall ( 1910- 1989), right, who wanted to be an ac­tor but could not ini­tially find enough work so he went into teach­ing in­stead. In later life, how­ever, he be­came a well- known ra­con­teur and broad­caster in a sim­i­lar mould to Pot­ter, his throw­away lines amus­ing not just the pub­lic but those he worked with as well. In par­tic­u­lar, he was in his el­e­ment as a team cap­tain on tele­vi­sion’s Call My Bluff where he worked with Frank Muir and Robert Robin­son, also clever word­smiths.

Ann Bas­ford of Wil­las­ton, near Nantwich in Cheshire, asked about the char­ac­ter ac­tress Rose­mary Leach. Born in 1935 at Much Wen­lock in Shrop­shire, she played sev­eral im­por­tant roles on tele­vi­sion, stage and screen, in­clud­ing Queen Vic­to­ria in the tele­vi­sion se­ries Dis­raeli. She also played Queen El­iz­a­beth II on stage sev­eral times.

Other cred­its in­cluded the tipsy mother of Zoë Wana­maker in My Fam­ily as well as key roles in The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood, The Charmer, Berke­ley Square, A Room With a View and the scat­ter­brained Aunt Fenny in The Jewel in the Crown. The lat­ter gave her a spe­cial in­ter­est in In­dia which she re­vis­ited sev­eral times be­fore her death in 2017, aged 81.

Rose­mary Leach ( left) was a fine char­ac­ter ac­tress who won two BAFTA awards.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.