The Late Sir Harry Secombe
Sir Harry and friends
Harry Secombe Entertainer
Harry Secombe was one of my Mum's favourite entertainers. He had a powerful, almost classical, singing voice. This was what my late Mum used to love about him.
Mum's sister though could not stand his voice but loved to watch Sir Harry when he was playing the fool.
Funny thing entertainment, isn't it?
One man's meat is certainly another man's poison when it comes to comedy, music and entertainment.
Never heard of Sir Harry Secombe?
I bet you have.
Let me remind you about this great entertainer.
Harry Donald Secombe was born in an area of Swansea on September 8th, 1921. His upbringing was a little more privileged than those children of Welsh coal miners. Harry's Dad was a grocer and his Mum a shop manageress.
His parents were regular church goers and by the age of 12 Harry was a member of the church choir. Even then though Harry loved to play the fool.
Harry's entertainment career, in a way, began during World War Two.
Harry encountered Spike Milligan as they both served King and Country in the Second World War. This chance meeting was to lead to their partnership in the crazy comedy gang called The Goons.
After Harry was demobbed in 1946 he secured various entertainment jobs becoming a regular comedian at The Windmill Theatre. He also began working for radio as the resident comedian. This time it was for a Welsh program called, Welsh Rarebit.
After meeting Michael Bentine, and then Peter Sellers, whilst he was working at the Windmill Theatre, comedy writing followed. Along with zany Spike Milligan, the four wrote a comedy script.
The title of this script was Crazy People and in due course this was to become the Goon Show.
With a singing voice which could raise the roof, Secombe carried on with his singing career although he did not need to. However he loved to sing.
When I was a youngster he would often appear on British Television sometimes appearing as part of the Goon Show or singing a straight, light opera song, or then again, maybe singing a silly song.
Sir Harry had an infectious giggle and personality. He was an expert at making silly voices which could always raise a giggle with us children.
Harry was a rather rotund gentleman whose appearance completely fitted with his funny side.
He did, however, appear in many straight singing roles. He appeared in various musicals, played Mr Bumble in the excellent musical film production of Oliver and played Mr Pickwick to perfection. Of course, his large build helped with these two roles.
With a brother who was a Vicar, I suppose it was fitting that, in later life, Sir Harry became host of British Television's Songs of Praise and Highway, which aired on a Sunday evening during what was often called the “god slot.”
In 1981 Harry was knighted and became Sir Harry Secombe. His fitting joke at the time was that he was going to be called Sir Cumference due to his large size.
Sir Harry died in April 2007 after four years of illness.
He had suffered two strokes but the cause of his death was prostate cancer. The second stroke had led to his retirement from the entertainment business.
I remember watching his last film which was made to give hope to others who had suffered similar strokes.
After Harry's death a memorial service was held to celebrate his life. This was attended by more than a few royals. Prince Charles was one of Sir Harry's biggest fans and it was his comedy that he loved.
Sir Harry Secombe’s tombstone has the words of a song on it - well almost. The words are very fitting and it simply says:-
To know him was to love him.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2010 Ethel Smith