The Late Sir Harry Secombe
Sir Harry and friends
Harry Secombe was one of my Mum's favourite entertainers. He had a powerful, almost classical, singing voice. This was what my dear 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.
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 8th September 1921. His upbringing was a little more privileged than those children of coal miners. Harry's Dad was a grocer and his Mum a shop manager.
His parents were regular church goers and by the age of 12 Harry was a member of the church choir. Even then though Harry would love 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 war. This chance meeting was to lead to their partnership in The Goons.
After Harry was demobbed in 1946 he secured various entertainment jobs. He became a regular comedian at The Windmill Theatre. He also began working for radio as 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. He did not need to but loved to sing. When I was a youngster he would often appear on British Television. He would appear as part of the Goons or sing a straight, light opera song, or then again, maybe sing 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.
He 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, was Mr Bumble in the excellent film production of Oliver and played Pickwick to perfection. Of course, his large build helped with this role.
With a brother who was a Vicar, I suppose it was fitting that, in later life, Sir Harry became host of Television's Songs of Praise and Highway, which aired on a Sunday.
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 his cause of death was prostate cancer. The second stroke had led to his retirement from the entertainment business. I remember watching though his last film. It 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. It was his comedy that he loved.
His tombstone has the words of a song on it. Well almost. These are very fitting.It simply says:-
To know him was to love him.