Archive for February, 2015

Proposal to start Council meetings with prayer

You may have seen press coverage recently about Parliament considering a proposal to allow councils to start their meetings with a prayer. As far back as 1951, Bletchley Urban District Council received just such a proposal.  Seems the town has always been ahead of the game.

In April of 1951 the local Deanery asked councils in the area to ‘start your meetings with prayer’. In May of that year (after the local elections) the Chairman, Mr H Price, gave notice that he would move a resolution that the council should comply with this request. However, at a lively meeting on 26 May, fully reported in the Bletchley Gazette. the proposal met with strong opposition and the resolution was withdrawn.

Newspaper headline, May 1951

Newspaper headline, May 1951


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Bletchley photos!

This photograph taken in 1972 shows the Bletchley Grammar School cricket team. One of the people I recognized immediately was Tony Clarke, well known for his sporting prowess in the town. Can anyone remember the event, it looks to me very much like a presentation; unless of course somebody out there knows different!

15872 Grammar School cricket team July 1972


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This is part of  a serial. To get the full Jollities story please start at Part 1

Sammy Hawes was born on 7 March 1913 and became a very experienced entertainer (in the 1930s he had been a member of the Busy Bees concert party) and his act with marionettes was staged in a booth similar to a Punch & Judy show; at the front it had theatre-like curtains and a plain black curtain back-drop which had a slit in the centre through which Sammy could push his head. After doing so he would then hang the ‘headless’ marionette below his own face and manipulate the arms and legs in a natural manner. In this way he was able to create many characters (which I think were made by him) but the two that I remember clearly were first his bridesmaid’s outfit of dress, flowers and a wig which he wore and the second, and clearly my most favourite, was a cowboy for which he wore a Stetson hat, a neckerchief and was seated upon a horse which he made rear up while at the same time he waved his hat at the audience! Each of his changes was accompanied by a suitable song which for the bridesmaid was “Why am I always the bridesmaid, never the blushing bride . . .?” and for the cowboy “Home, home on the range, where the deer and antelope roam . . .”.

Playing the saw in the 1960s

Playing the saw in the 1960s


Sammy’s supporting act was to play a carpenter’s saw using a violin bow; he would sit on a chair centre stage and place the saw upright with the handle between his knees then while holding the end of the blade with his left hand, he could flex the saw up and down while drawing the bow back and forth across the back edge of the blade to create a melodious sound. I found him a very kindly man and an extremely clever entertainer.

STOP RESS Soon after the above piece was written, Sammy’s grandson Stuart was able to ‘capture’ some images of his granddad that were on an old family cinefilm which was shot only just in time. Maggie relates: “I think the filming was done circa 1956 by my Mum who was laughing ‘her head off’ and had a job to keep the camera straight!!” and came about because, when telling his children about his wartime experiences he remembered that after the war ended he had packed all his gear away in the garden shed. However, when he came to retrieve his props he was dismayed to see how moth-eaten and grubby they had become. But fortunately, these pictures do show how Sammy created his act!

A bridesmaid and a pierrot - and a final bow

A bridesmaid and a pierrot – and a final bow

When surfing the Web for more information I found a mention, via the link below, which states that Sammy on one occasion applied to audition for the Caroll Levis show, but unfortunately he was unsuccessful, unlike a Bletchley ladies’ band.


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Bletchley during world war two 45-47 Keeping Amused 1947

As for Betty Metcalfe and her small orchestra, they were successful in the Carroll Levis Discoveries Contest held at Buckingham Town Hall, although despite having recently won a recent local talent competition at Bletchley, Mr. S. Hawes, ‘the Bletchley saw soloist’, was unfortunately not successful on this occasion.

John Taylor is a local historian who has published several books on local heritage. 


The opening and closing of the Show

Although I have tried to trace the song’s opening number on the Web, the following verse is all I can remember of the appropriately named “Make It A Party” performed by the whole troupe:

“Make it a party, gay and hearty; everybody happy, merry and bright;
We’ll turn the town upside down for it’s our night out tonight.
Make it a party, gay and hearty; try to keep the party clean;
A little umpty-rara in the chorus and a little of what you fancy in between.”

Note:   I’m not too sure about the last two lines, but they may have been intended to warn against bawdy behaviour in the audience.

We also had a Grand Finale when the whole party sang “Cheerio”, but unfortunately I cannot remember one word, or the tune!

7/2/2015 – Conversation with my older brother, David. Me: Do you remember when I was in The Jollities Concert Party? D: Yes, I do; I used to operate the spotlight and on one occasion when you were off sick I substituted for you and sang ‘The body in the Bag’. Me: Do you remember Dad coming to the concerts? D: Yes, I do; I thought he was part of the troupe. No, I replied, I don’t think he could have been as he was still in the National Fire Service in Bletchley then working shifts.

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This is part of  a serial. To get the full Jollities story please start at Part 1


Another question Maggie asked was “What sort of transport did we have?” Well, of course, with petrol rationing you had to have special dispensation to use a private car, and we would have needed four or five cars to carry us all. It is true there were taxis for hire and there were also coach hire firms. Children from outlying villages were brought to and returned from Bletchley schools each weekday, but the only companies I recall were Robinson’s of Stewkley and Soul & Bros. of Stoke Goldington.

I seem to remember that we had a regular coach driver who I think we called Paddy. He lived in Victoria Road and was popular with us for his easy-going manner and kindness.

One evening I do remember being on a coach was when returning from a concert on a beautiful moonlit night in the winter of ’44 turning the usual black-out into magic fairyland of fields and trees; and on returning to Fenny and seeing Jack Frost twinkling and shining from the rooftops.

Recently, when I asked Connie the same question, she replied: “Don’t you remember the time when we were transported in an army truck?” To which I said “No”. The she said: “Do you remember a rather stout, middle-aged lady singer with a beautiful voice?” I said “Yes”.

“Well”, said Connie, “she couldn’t climb up into the back of the lorry, so we had to leave her behind!”

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The Bletchley Gazette of 29th December 1945 reported that The Jollities Concert Party had given 89 concerts between their formation in the winter of 1942 and their recent closure. They visited various villages around Bletchley and raised a total of £910/15/8d for charitable purposes, most of which went to the Red Cross. All of the artistes gave their services entirely voluntarily.

Because I was only a member from late 1944 until its closure in December 1945, I cannot now recall many venues. However, I do remember, in no particular order, playing at the Albert Street Co-op Hall, Stewkley Village Hall and one of the smallest halls I had ever seen at Hockliffe which, despite its size, also had a balcony!

Although nearing the end of the war, food was still rationed, but as it was customary to provide refreshments for the artistes following the performance, we could look forward at least to a plate of sandwiches and some cake before returning home. There was one particular venue however, that is still fresh in my memory and doubtless as a growing lad, food could be the reason for it.

The hall I refer to is Buckingham Town Hall which, during the war was commandeered by the Army, and it was for the soldiers that we gave the concert. In the basement was the kitchen from where the army cooks fed the troops and on this occasion they fed us too. Nothing special in that, I hear you say, but what made it special was because it was the first time, I think since the war started, that any of us had eaten freshly cooked sugar doughnuts . . . which were just heavenly!

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Daphne Charlesworth, tap dancer; Joan Pacey, soprano; Leila Millard, humorous monologues; Sammy Hawes, living marionettes and saw-playing soloist; Ernie Braun, unaccompanied singer; Jimmy Brown, singer of Scottish songs; Alan Kay, humorous songs and monologues; Laurie Hughes, comedian; Bernard Brown, M.C.L., conjuror; Reg Virtue, child impressionist and compere; Mrs A. Sylvester, soprano; Rosemary Macrae, singer and organiser of the Camp Fire scene; Mrs Connie Pether, solo accordionist and pianist; and Mrs Cox, who often assisted Mrs Pether.

The underlined names are of those I clearly remember, and to whom I can add some detail:

Daphne Charlesworth was a pretty, fair-haired young lady who lived at Leighton Buzzard and who was very popular as a singer/dancer.

Sammy Hawes was a very experienced entertainer (in the 1930s he had been a member of the Busy Bees concert party) and his act with marionettes was staged in a booth similar to a Punch & Judy show.  See more about Sammy Hawes

Ernie Braun, unaccompanied singer; the only unaccompanied vocalist that I can recall was a soldier, which may have been Ernie.

Jimmy Brown’s stage name was ‘We Angus Macdonald’, singer of Scottish songs. Jimmy was not a lot older than me, probably middle to late ‘teens and was certainly not tall. However he was always immaculately turned out in his bonnet, jacket with silver buttons, kilt, buckled shoes and dirk and was very popular with the village girls around the district. Jimmy’s repertoire consisted of songs by the well-known Scotsmen Will Fyffe and Sir Harry Lauder, such as “I’m ninety-four this morning . . .” and “I belong to Glasgow . . .” etc. His nearest likeness to another Scottish entertainer would be Andy Stewart who used to welcome the New Year in for the BBC. At some time in the late ‘forties, I believe, Jimmy decided to travel back home to Glasgow on his bicycle! A report in the Bletchley Gazette traces his journey by the daily updates of his progress that he sent to them.

Laurie Hughes, was a well-known Bletchley comedian and greengrocer with a wicked sense of humour, always ably helping us to forget there was a war on. In one part of his act he would dress as a Vicar with some hilarious jokes, all delivered with a poker face, like when addressing the congregation, or reading the parish notes: “The minister for next Sunday will be found hanging on the notice board outside” and “A golden earring which was found in the church porch has been handed in by a lady of the congregation; so will anyone who has lost an earring please go to Helen Hunt for it”.  I believe his first shop was situated in Church Street from where, with the post-war expansion of Bletchley, he transferred his business to St. Mary’s Avenue.

Bernard Brown, M.C.L., Bernard was a ticket collector at Bletchley station and also a member of the Magic Circle and was highly regarded in both categories. He was also of ‘the old school’ and many a time he chastised me for being too precocious! But he did teach me to remain silent when others were performing!

Reg Virtue, I do not recognise Reg by name, but I do remember one member whose act, I think, was based on that of the radio star Harry Hemsley, who built his act around a fictitious family.

Mrs Connie Pether, Connie was the backbone of the troupe; she not only had a solo spot playing her accordion, but was one of the best piano accompanists that we could have wished for. I owe a lot to Connie for guiding me through my fledgling years of ‘treading the boards’.

Mrs A. Sylvester, soprano, was also Connie’s mother and although I have not pin-pointed her in my memory yet, I do know she had a lovely voice and showed it by winning a number of eisteddfod certificates.

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