Bournemouth Personalities

Below are four short biographies of personalities from the Bournemouth area who came to prominence during the fifties & sixties

Anita Harris

The first Bournemouth resident to release a pop record in the sixties was the light entertainer Anita Harris. Born in Midsomer Norton on 3rd June 1942, her family moved to Penrith Road in Boscombe Manor, Bournemouth when she was seven, where she attended the Covent of the Cross school in Parkwood Road (now a Chiropractic College). She was a graduate of the Hampshire School of Speech and Drama in Boscombe and also developed a penchant for skating at the Westover Road Ice rink where she became the preferred practice partner of the professional skater Courtney Jones, (Jones who was born in Poole on 30th April 1933, became the World, European and British Doubles Champion five times between 1957 and 1960 with his partners June Markham and Doreen Denny). Jones took Anita to the Queens Ice rink in London where she was spotted by a talent scout for the famous Bluebell Girls. She passed an audition, despite being only fifteen years old, and moved to America for six-months where she danced at the El Rancho Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

On her return to England, she joined the Cliff Adams Singers, appearing regularly on the popular BBC Radio show Sing Something Simple. However, her solo break came when film soundtrack composer John Barry’s manager, Tony Lewis, spotted her and signed Anita to the EMI subsidiary label Parlophone. Her first single in October 1961 was the Lionel Bart composition “I Haven’t Got You”, which failed to chart as did a further six platters on the Vocalion, Decca and Pye labels. It wasn’t until she moved to CBS in 1967 that her fortunes changed for the better with Tom Springfield’s “Just Loving You” hitting number six in the charts. A further three singles, “The Playground”, “Anniversary Waltz” and “Dream a Little Dream Of Me”, all made the top fifty and an album, “Just Loving You”, climbed into the top thirty.

Anita Harris as nurse Clarke with Sid James in Carry on Doctor

From then on her focus shifted to TV, appearing in the children’s series Jumbleland where she played Witch Witt Witty, The Morecombe and Wise Show, the David Nixon Magic Show, The Good Old Days and the Royal Variety Show in 1981. A year later she was the subject of her own edition of This is Your Life hosted by Eamonn Andrews. On stage she is a stalwart of the pantomime season and has appeared in numerous plays and musicals including Cats, Bell, Book and Candle, Seven Deadly Sins Four Deadly Sinners and her own show, Anita Harris in the Act. Her film roles have included 1967’s Carry On Follow That Camel, and a year later she played nurse Clarke in Carry On Doctor. She married her record producer Mike Margolis at the Bournemouth registry office, (now a lap dancing club called Wiggle) in Old Christchurch Road in May 1973, and has lived in London for many years.       

Anita Harris Discography
Singles

I haven’t Got You c/w Mr One and Only: Parlophone (R 4830) 1961

Lies c/w Don’t Think About Love: Vocalion (V 9223) 1964

Willingly c/w At Last Love: Decca (F 12082) 1965

Trains and Boats and Planes c/w Upside Down: Pye (7N 15868) 1965

I Don’t Know Anymore c/w When I Look at You: Pye (7N 15894) 1965

London Life c/w I Run to Hide: Pye (7N 15971) 1965

Something Must be Done c/w Funny Kind of Feeling: Pye (7N 17069) 1966

Just Loving You c/w Butterfly With Coloured Wings: CBS (2724) 1967

The Playground c/w B-A-D For Me: CBS (2991) 1967

Anniversary Waltz c/w Old Queenie Cole: CBS (3211) 1968

We’re Going on a Tuppenny Bus Ride c/w Artie: CBS (3468) 1968

Dream a Little Dream of Me c/w The Flying Machine: CBS (3637) 1968

Le Blon c/w A Dusty Road: CBS (3765) 1968

Loving You c/w Ferdinand and His One Man Band: CBS (4157) 1969

I’ll Never Fall in Love Again c/w Love is Everywhere: CBS (CBS 4467) 1969

The Only One to Love Me c/w When You Were a Child: CBS (4845) 1970

Jumbleland c/w Late Night Final: CBS (5377) 1970

Genesis c/w Put on a Little Music: Columbia (DB 8845) 1971

You and I c/w Captain Biscuit: Columbia (DB 8962) 1972

The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot c/w Ave Maria: Warwick (XMWW 1000) 1975

After the Ball c/w Summer Spun: Galaxy (GY 156) 1978

Hello Sailor c/w Do You Know Who You Are: Midas Records (MR1) 1979 With the Red Admiral

Touch of the Heart of a Child With Sunshine c/w Back in the Old Routine: Columbia (DB 9095) 1984 With The Young Set

Somethin’ Stupid c/w Lovely Day: Komedia (KOMV001) 2017 With Count Arthur Strong

EP’s

Nursery Rhymes for Our Times: CBS (6359) 1967

Anita Harris: PYE (NEP 24288) 1967

Dream a Little Dream of Me: CBS (6401) 1968

Albums

Somebody’s in My Orchard: CBS (62894) 1966

Just Loving You: CBS (63182) 1967

Anita Harris: Marble Arch (MAL 761) 1968

Cuddly Toy: CBS (S 63927) 1969

Anita Harris Sings Songs From The Thames Television Series Anita in Jumbleland: CBS (64258) 1970 With The David Whitaker Orchestra

Anita is Peter: Golden Hour (GH 590) 1974

Love to Sing: Warwick Records (WW 5015) 1976

The Best of Anita Harris: Embassy (31615) 1977

Feelings: Chevron (CHVL 117) 1979

A Taste of Honey Columbia (484104 2) 1996

Ann Sidney

Ann Sidney (born 27th March 1944 in Chippenham, Wiltshire) moved to Kent Road, Branksome with her parents Gladys and George and her brother, also a George, when she was four years old. She went to Martin Road Primary School in Parkstone, then Martin-Kemp Welch School in Herbert Avenue (now St. Aldhelm’s Academy). During her teens she became a keen skater and was a regular at the Westover Road Ice Rink, but she had to give it up as her parents couldn’t afford the lessons.

When Ann left school, she became an apprentice hairdresser at the Roger De Paris salon in Bournemouth, who encouraged her to enter the 1959 ‘Bournemouth Regatta Queen’ competition for some free publicity. It was held in the Lower Gardens near the bandstand, where she was voted the winner by a clap-o-meter while wearing a blue gingham dress that looked suspiciously like a tablecloth. Four years later she entered and won, the ‘Miss United Kingdom’ title in Blackpool and became the UK representative at the ‘Miss World Pageant’ held at the Lyceum in London on 12th November 1964. She beat off runner up Miss Argentina and forty-one other contestants and was crowned by Carole Crawford, who, as Miss Jamaica, was the previous recipient. Ann returned home to a hero’s welcome, waving to the crowds who lined the streets of Poole sat in the back of Rolls Royce Silver Ghost on loan from Lord Montagu’s motor museum. In the evening she attended a lavish gala dinner at the civic centre with the mayor and numerous dignitaries. During her reign she toured Vietnam and the Far East with Bob Hope, entertaining American troops, travelled around the world five times and had a controversial short affair with Bruce Forsyth. She also released a record, “The Boy in the Woolly Sweater”, but the best that can be said about this piece of fluff is that it’s over in two minutes fifteen seconds.

Ann Sidney and the Mayor of Poole in the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, November 1964

After relinquishing her role as Miss World, she joined a repertory company in Manchester for two years, then toured in plays such as Doctor in the House, Not Now Darling, The Sound of Music and regularly appeared in pantomime. Ann went on to a fairly successful acting career in film, starring in Sebastian with Dirk Bogarde and alongside Mick Jagger and James Fox in the critically acclaimed crime drama Performance. She also appeared in The Avengers and the comedy show Are You Being Served? on television. In her thirties she became a singer at the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas before landing a job in hospitality at the Mirage Hotel, also on the Vegas Strip. Ann has been married five times, her last husband, stage producer Duncan Weldon, died in 2019.

Ann Sydney Discography
Single

The Boy in the Woolly Sweater c/w A Lonely Doll: His Masters Voice (POP 1411) 1965

Ken Baily

Kenneth Henry Highett Baily was best known for being the England mascot, he was also a keen runner, a swimmer, an ardent royalist and wrote a column under the guise of ‘Genevieve’ in the now defunct Bournemouth Times. Although born in Somerset on 8th August 1911, Ken Baily became synonymous with Bournemouth and could be spotted around town riding his bicycle, attending social events or cheerleading the local football team, ‘The Cherries’, a job he carried on at International level with the England football and rugby teams. At the 1966 football World Cup he became known as World Cup Willie, (the name of the official mascot) because of his eye-catching John Bull outfit. In fact, Ken was so closely associated with the England team, he had a Subbuteo figure made in his honour. In 1982 Ken famously covered up the ample cleavage of streaker Erica Roe with a Union Jack at Twickenham during a televised England v Australia game.

Ken Baily and Erica Roe, Twickenham 1982

In 1939 Ken ran non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean (a distance of 997 miles in just over 5 days) on the deck of the SS Bremen as part of a relay team with Douglas Brady, John Harris and Noel Griffin. They were carrying a torch and a message to President Roosevelt asking if Germany attacked Britain, would the USA declare war on the Germans. As we all know, the plea fell on deaf ears as the Nazis invaded Poland a matter of days after he returned to England and in the spring of 1940 Hitler launched a bombing campaign on Britain. However, their feat appeared in the Guinness Book of Records along with another record Ken achieved for running the most recorded miles. In 1948 he was one of the Olympic torch bearers when the games came to London and for many years he ran along the promenade carrying a flame at the start of the Bournemouth Regatta and fireworks. He would also handout fire lighters to children at the annual illuminations in the lower gardens.

Apart from riding a bicycle and jogging, he maintained his fitness by regularly swimming in the sea and every year he would take part in the annual Christmas Day and midnight New Year’s Eve swims with the Spartans. A fervent monarchist, Ken would follow the Queen and other members of the royal family around the country as they carried out their official engagements, even popping up in Sydney, Australia on one occasion. He worked as a clerical assistant in the telephone exchange, but funded his extracurricular activities with an inheritance which allowed him to travel the globe following international sporting teams and royalty. Despite overcoming a speech impediment, he would talk to anyone he came into contact with and became a minor celebrity around town. Ken died of cancer in the nursing home in Bournemouth where he lived on 10th December 1993, aged eighty-two.

Tony Hancock

The comedian Tony Hancock was born in Hall Green, Birmingham, on 12th May 1924, but spent his formative years in Bournemouth. His mother Lily and father John, also a part-time comedian, moved to the town when Tony was three years old in 1927 and bought the Mayo Hygienic Laundry at 144-146 Strouden Road, Winton, before taking over the Railway Hotel (now an Asda) in Holdenhurst Road a year later. The Hancock’s moved again in 1933 with the acquisition of the rundown Swanmore Villa and Lodge at 3 Gervis Road, which they converted and renamed the Durlston Court Hotel (now the Hotel Celebrity). Tony’s school days were spent at Summerbee Infants School in East Way, followed by Saugeen Preparatory School for Boys in Derby Road (now the site of the Bay Majestic Hotel), then Durlston Court School in Swanage, where he was a boarder and finally Bradfield School in Berkshire. When he left in the summer of 1939, he enrolled onto a typing and shorthand course at the Bournemouth Municipal College and took several short-term jobs including a stint as potman at the Pembroke Bar and Grill in the Triangle.

The Railway Hotel in Holdenhurst Road, now the site of an Asda store and car park

George Fairweather, a close friend of the family and owner of a hairdressing salon in Westover Road, arranged for Tony, who fancied himself as a stand-up comedian, to make his stage debut at the Avon Road Labour Hall (now a Social Club), for which he was paid the princely sum of ten shillings and sixpence. He continued to polish his act at venues such as the church hall of the Sacred Heart on Richmond Hill, where he tried out too many blue jokes and was told not to come back for the second half by the priest who also said he would have to “fumigate the stage” after the performance. The Pavilion Theatre, the Theatre Royal in Albert Road and the Boscombe Hippodrome where he acted as a compere. When Tony turned eighteen in 1942, he received his call-up papers and enlisted into the RAF as ground crew. One of his first postings was back in Bournemouth at the Metropole Hotel in Holdenhurst Road where he guarded the offices of his unit’s surveillance department. On the 23rd May 1943, the Metropole was bombed and raised to the ground with a loss of 208 Commonwealth airmen and civilians, luckily for Tony, he had been posted to Blackpool a couple of weeks previous. Towards the end of the war Tony gained invaluable experience as an entertainer working for the Ralph Reader ‘Gang Show’.

The Metropole Hotel at the Lansdowne, bombed in May 1943 with the loss of 208 lives

After demob, Tony worked at the Windmill Theatre in Soho and appeared on radio in Workers Playtime, Variety Bandbox and as a teacher in Educating Archie. The show’s star was a ventriloquist’s dummy, which was a strange concept, as the whole point of a vent act is to make the audience believe the dummy is talking, not the manipulator, although in the case of Peter Brough, some say he was such a bad ventriloquist you could see his lips move even on the wireless. In 1954 Tony landed his own show, Hancock’s Half Hour, in which Tony played a caricature of himself with his co-stars Hattie Jacques, Sid James, Moira Lister, Bill Kerr and Kenneth Williams. In 1956 the show transferred successfully to television, but James was the only member of the cast to make the transition with him.

Hancock’s Half Hour, Tony Hancock and Sid James in 236 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam

His stage persona, Anthony Aloysius St. John Hancock, a pompous, failed music-hall turn, lived in a threadbare house at 236 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam with Sid, a lovable cockney rogue. His script writers, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, observed Hancock’s personality traits and foibles and subverted them, creating comic gold. For six series the show attracted millions of viewers, but for the final series James was ousted and the show was rebranded as the concise Hancock. Tony had become increasingly uneasy that he and James were becoming a double act, but now there was no doubt who was the star of the show and the success of the next six episodes momentarily vindicated his decision. Who can forget The Lift, where he inadvertently annoys his fellow passengers when the lift gets stuck between the floors, The Bowmans based on the long running radio show The Archers, The Bedsitter, a solo tour de force in which Hancock attempts to fend off boredom, The Radio Ham where his nightly games of snakes and ladders and chess with fellow enthusiasts around the world, are interrupted by a ‘Mayday’ call from a yacht in distress and The Blood Donor, “A pint? That’s nearly an armful!”. These shows cemented Hancock’s position as the most popular and talented comedy star in Britain. However, his next moves and missteps proved disastrous. After releasing the fairly successful feature film The Rebel in 1961, he left the BBC for ATV, fired his longtime agent Beryl Vertue and dumped his writers Galton and Simpson who went onto pen another hit series, Steptoe and Son. It was the beginning of his downfall.

During the mid-sixties he was cast as leading man in another movie, the less successful The Punch and Judy Man which was inspired by his childhood in Bournemouth and had cameo parts in two star studded films, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and The Wrong Box. He also made three series with ATV, but they were a pale shadow of his former work for the BBC. In early September 1966 he came to the Bournemouth Winter Gardens for a week-long run in ‘The Show of the Stars’. However, by now his career was on the skids, as he was suffering from alcoholism, bouts of depression and self-doubts about his own ability. Tony looked uncomfortable on stage as he rehashed old routines, fluffed lines and lost his audience. In the summer of 1968, while he was in Australia fulfilling a contract to make thirteen shows for the Seven Network, Tony Hancock committed suicide in his rented apartment in Sydney on 25th June 1968. The world lost a true comic genius.

The venue where Hancock made his first appearance in 1940. The Chairman of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society, Dave Davies of The Kinks and the actor Richard Briers unveil a plaque outside the Avon Road Social Club 1st May 2011 (Photograph John Cherry)
The Durlston Court Hotel today, now renovated and renamed the Hotel Celebrity. Below the blue plaque which is sited near the entrance, wrongly states Tony’s first performance was at the Sacred Heart Church hall (Photographs John Cherry)
A Selective Tony Hancock Discography
Albums

Pieces of Hancock: Pye Golden Guinea Records (GGL 0245) 1960

This is Hancock: Pye (NPL 18045) 1960

The Blood Donor / Radio Ham: Pye (NPL 18068) 1961

Unique Hancock: BBC Records (REB 150 M) 1973

Golden Hour of Tony Hancock: Golden Hour (GH 577) 1974

The Lift / Twelve Angry Men: BBC Records (REB 260) 1976

Hancock’s Half Hour: The Americans Hit Town / The Unexploded Bomb: BBC Records (REB 423) 1981

Hancock’s Half Hour: The Scandal Magazine / Last of the Hancock’s: BBC Records (REB 451) 1982

Hancock’s Half Hour: The Sleepless Night / Fred’s Pie Store: BBC Records (REB 485) 1983

Hancock’s Half Hour: Hancock’s War / The Christmas Club: BBC Records (REB 526) 1984

Hancock’s Half Hour: Sid’s Mystery Tours / The Poetry Society: BBC Worldwide (ZBBC 1740CD) 1995

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