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Dawson, Leslie [Les] (1931–1993), comedian, was born on 2 February 1931 in Thornton Street, Collyhurst, Manchester, the only child of Leslie Dawson (1905–1970), bricklayer, and his wife, Julia (c.1914–1957), daughter of David and Ellen Nolan. A small, chubby, solitary child, he grew up in some poverty in a ...

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Leslie Dawson (1931–1993) by R. Poplowski, 1973 Getty Images – R. Poplowski

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Everett, Kenny [real name Maurice James Christopher Cole] (1944–1995), broadcaster and comedian, was born on 25 December 1944 at 14 Hereford Road, Seaforth, Liverpool, the son of Thomas Cole, Mersey tugboat mate and later tugboat captain, and his wife, Elizabeth Margaret, née...

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Kenny Everett (1944–1995) by Lewis Morley, 1960s [with his wife, Lee Middleton] © Lewis Morley, courtesy of The Akehurst Bureau; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Hill, Alfred Hawthorne [Benny] (1924–1992), comedian, was born in Southampton on 25 January 1924, the younger son and second of three children of Alfred Hill (d. 1971), a former circus performer and the manager of a surgical appliance shop in Southampton, and his wife, ...

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Alfred Hawthorne Hill (1924–1992) by Bob Collins, c. 1957 © Bob Collins; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Howerd, Frankie [real name Francis Alick Howard] (1917–1992), comedian, was born in York on 6 March 1917, the elder son and eldest of three children of Francis Alfred William Howard, soldier and tutor in the army education corps, and his wife, Edith Florence, ...

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Frankie Howerd (1917–1992) by Vincent Gillett © Vincent Gillet Photography; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Jewel, Jimmy [real name James Arthur Thomas Marsh] (1909–1995), comedian and actor, was born on 4 December 1909 at 52 Andover Street, Pittsmoor, Sheffield, the younger child of James Arthur Thomas Marsh (1881–1936), music-hall artist (under the name James A. Jewel) and designer and builder of stage scenery, and his wife, ...

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Jimmy Jewel (1909–1995) by Wolfgang Suschitzky, 1981 © Wolfgang Suschitzky / National Portrait Gallery, London

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Milligan, Terence Alan [Spike] (1918–2002), comedian and author, was born on 16 April 1918 in Ahmednagar, near Bombay, India, the elder son of Leo Alphonso Milligan (1890–1969), soldier, and his wife, Florence Winifred, née Kettleband (1893–1990). His brother, Desmond Patrick, was born in 1925. ...

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Terence Alan Milligan (1918–2002) by Harry Hammond, 1953 V&A Images, The Victoria and Albert Museum; photograph National Portrait Gallery, London

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Murray, Charles Thomas McKinnon [Chic] (1919–1985), comedian and actor, was born on 6 November 1919 at 26 Duncan Street, Greenock, the only surviving child of William Irvine Murray (1879–1933), railway goods checker, and his wife, Isabella Forrest McKinnon (1882–1958). He left school at ...

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Potter, Gillie [real name Hugh William Peel] (1887–1975), comedian and broadcaster, was born at 27 Weston Street, St Paul, Bedford, on 14 September 1887, the eldest son of the Revd Brignal Peel, a Wesleyan minister, and his wife, Elizabeth Stimson. He was educated at ...

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Ted Ray (1905–1977) by Lenare, 1949 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Ray, Ted [real name Charles Olden] (1905–1977), comedian, was born at 110 Great George Street, Wigan, Lancashire, on 21 November 1905, the son of Charles Olden, comic singer and mimic, who used the stage name Charlie Alden, and his wife, Margaret Ellen, ...

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Secombe, Sir Harry Donald (1921–2001), entertainer, was born in Swansea on 8 September 1921, the younger son and third of four children of Frederick Ernest Secombe, a commercial traveller for the wholesale grocery firm Walters and Batchelors and an amateur cartoonist, and his wife, ...

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Sir Harry Donald Secombe (1921–2001) by David Poole, 1968 © David Poole / The Army Benevolent Fund; photograph National Portrait Gallery, London

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Thompson, Robert Michael [Bobby] (1911–1988), comedian, was born on 18 November 1911 at 4 The Staiths, Penshaw, near Sunderland, co. Durham, the youngest child of John Thompson, colliery overman, and his wife, Mary Cain. He had three brothers and three sisters. Having lost both parents before reaching the age of eight, ...