Staying in England
(Recalled by Pat "Haggis" Gentles - Feb 2004)


There was some pressure being put on me by both my mother and by Jimmy Staples for me to accept an offer I'd had to do pantomime at Christmas 1958 in Birmingham instead of going to Germany with Ivy and the girls. Jimmy had also told me he knew many people in the business he could introduce me to, which could lead to a step in the right direction for me.

It was argued that being on an air force base in the middle of the German Forests wasn't going to get me further up the ladder to fame and fortune. I said I'd think about it and I thought long and hard. The fun loving me wanted to go with the girls but that would not help my career, whereas if I stayed in England, Birmingham was near enough to London so I would be able to get around to meet people with influence in the business.

After very much soul searching and desperately wanting to do the right thing, I decided to stay in England for the winter of 1958/59, I then informed Ivy Benson I wouldn't be going with her to Germany, not this year anyway.

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She accepted my news and said she hoped that I would rejoin them for the next summer in the Isle of Man. I then informed my agent I was going to do the Pantomime in Birmingham.

Pantomime in England has nothing to do with miming per se but is a Christmas show put on by actors and singers choosing one of the children's stories such as Alice in Wonderland and acting out the story with the players in wonderful costumes designed from those worn to serve Royalty. The Principle boy is always played by a female who wears dancing tights and velvet jackets. The female characters in the story are always played by men in women's costumes. This has long been a tradition for British children to go and watch with their whole families. The group of performers that I was now booked to join were doing "Cinderella". I was to play the part of a nanny and do a speciality number involving all the children who were in the show and me leading them playing the bagpipes.

I was looking forward to it.