On page 14, Barry Cryer remembers his old friend Tony Hancock.
Another old friend of Hancock’s, who acted alongside him, was Jimmy Edwards, who died thirty years ago on 7th July 1988, aged 68. Readers will remember him as Pa Glum in Take It From Here, and as the headmaster Professor James Edwards in Whack-O! The school series, written by Frank Muir and Denis Norden, was hugely popular, running, off and on, from 1956 to 1972.
Edwards didn’t die so long ago but he belongs to an age that seems like ancient history to anyone under fifty. His character was famed for generous use of the cane; his 1984 memoir was called Six of the Best. In real life, he was keen on foxhunting. Edwards also ran as a Tory candidate for Paddington North in 1964. He didn’t succeed and, afterwards, the Cambridge graduate described himself as ‘Professor James Edwards, MA, Cantab, Failed MP’. It caused him considerable distress when he was outed as gay in the 1970s.
He had a distinguished war, winning the DFC. In 1944, his Dakota was shot down at Arnhem, inflicting the facial injuries that led to him growing his trademark handlebar moustache to conceal the injuries. He belonged to the Guinea Pig Club, whose members were injured aircrew operated on by the plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe. He was also a keen member of the Handlebar Club, for those blessed with such splendid moustaches.
The Old Un salutes the Professor, one of his favourite comedians. Whack-O!