Day 339 of Colourisation Project – April 11
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
On this day, April 11, 1954, 61 years ago, nothing much happened. It is a date which can only be significant for its insignificance. In fact, April 11, 1954, – a Sunday, has been identified by ‘experts’ as the most boring day of the 20th century.
After feeding some 300 million facts into new Cambridge based search engine, ‘True Knowledge’ now known as ‘Evi’, no key news events or births and deaths of famous people came back in the results. A “no news” day…but as they say “no news is good news.”
But fast forward 47 years to this date, April 11, 2001, when comedic genius, Harry Secombe, apropos of nothing above, took his final bow. The inscription on a blue plaque bearing his name reads “Goon, Comedian and Singer” in that order, (blue plaques being the historical markers located around London to mark the homes and workplaces of famous people).
Of course there was only one Goon who could really sing and that was Harry Secombe, one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers and one of Wales’ favourite sons. Secombe appeared in musicals, films and TV but it was his role of Neddie Seagoon on one of Britain’s most revered radio shows of all time, the BBC’s The Goon Show that he is best remembered for.
The Goon Show helped launch his career and that of fellow comedians, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine. With a bent for slapstick and buffoonery, it quickly took on a cult following and ran for 11 years between 1951–60, with Secombe at the forefront with his infectious, high-pitched giggles and squeals.
Secombe was also a singer with a beautifully rich and classical tenor voice that would sometimes move people to tears. Invariably it was always the butt of many of Spike Milligan’s jokes. When Secombe died, Milligan famously quipped,
“I’m glad he died before me, because I didn’t want him to sing at my funeral.”
Secombe however, was to have the last laugh. When Milligan died the following year, a recording of Secombe singing Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer was played at Milligan’s memorial service. This undoubtedly would have caused squeals of laughter and giggles on the other side.
In 1963 Secombe, a tireless charity worker, was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 1981 he was further honoured with a knighthood for his services to entertainment and charity. Prince Charles an avid fan, would thereafter always refer to him as Ned of Wales. Secombe on the other hand would refer to himself as Sir Cumference, a reference to his rotundity.
So it was that Secombe died on this day, 11 April 2001 from prostate cancer, at the age of 79. A memorial service to celebrate his life was held later in the year at Westminster Abbey. In attendance were Prince Charles, and other members of the royal family including Princess Anne, Princess Margaret, and Prince Edward.
The inscription on his tombstone reads: “To know him was to love him.”
For your musical enjoyment today, I leave you with a clip from the 1958 movie, Davy with a young Harry Secombe performing Nessun Dorma. Don’t be alarmed by the last twenty seconds of the clip…it all ends happily ever after.