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Ray Alan (1930–2010) by Monty Fresco, 1979 [with puppet Lord Charles] © Monty Fresco / Rex Features

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Alan, Ray [name in religion Raymond Alan Whyberd] (1930–2010), ventriloquist, writer, and television presenter, was born on 18 September 1930 at 83 Dutton Street, Greenwich, London, the fourth son of Albert William Whyberd (1895–1984), shipping clerk, later a local government officer, and his wife, ...

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Dave Allen (1936–2005) by Trevor Leighton, 1999 Camera Press, London

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Allen, Dave [real name David Edward John Archer Cullen Tynan-O'Mahony] (1936–2005), comedian, was born on 6 July 1936 at Merrion House, Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin, the youngest of three sons of (Gerard John) Cullen Tynan-O'Mahony (b. 1900), journalist and managing editor of the ...

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Allen, William Ernest (Chesney) (1894–1982), comedian and singer, was born at 7 Hamballa Road, Battersea, London, on 5 April 1894, the son of Edwin Allen, a prosperous builder, and his wife, Louisa, née Cridland. Allen's first employment on leaving school was as a solicitor's clerk. In 1912, at the age of eighteen, he made his début as an actor in repertory at the ...

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Anderson, John Henry (1814–1874), conjuror, known as ‘the Great Wizard of the North’, was born on 16 July 1814 on the estate of Craigmyle, Kincardine, the eldest child of John Anderson of Aberdeen, a mason, and his wife, Mary Robertson. He was apprenticed at ...

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Angel, Edward (d. 1673), actor and comedian, first came to public notice in winter 1659–60, when he joined the troupe assembled by John Rhodes at the Cockpit in Drury Lane. Angel's earliest recorded appearance was as Florimel in Fletcher and Rowley's The Maid in the Mill...

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Askey, Arthur Bowden (1900–1982), actor and entertainer, was born on 6 June 1900 at 29 Moses Street, Liverpool, the elder child and only son of Samuel Askey (d. 1958), secretary of the firm Sugar Products of Liverpool, and his wife, Betsy Bowden (...

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Arthur Bowden Askey (1900–1982) by Anthony Buckley, 1939 © Kenneth Hughes / National Portrait Gallery, London

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(Una) Winifred Atwell (c. 1913–1983) by unknown photographer, 1957 collection of Stephen Bourne

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Atwell, (Una) Winifred (c. 1913–1983), pianist and entertainer, was born on 27 April c.1913 in Jubilee Street, Tunapuna, near Port of Spain, Trinidad, the only child of a chemist, Frederick Monroe Atwell (d. 1958), and a district nurse, Sarah Elizabeth (...

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Atwell, (Una) Winifred (c. 1913–1983)

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Baker [married name Pearson], Hylda (1905–1986), comedian, was born on 14 February 1905 at Farnworth, Bolton, Lancashire, the eldest of the seven children (three boys, four girls) of Harold (Chukky) Baker (1884–1966), comedian, and Margaret Halliwell, seamstress, both of Farnworth. She was chiefly educated at ...

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Bard, Wilkie [real name William August Smith] (1874–1944), music-hall performer, was born on 19 March 1874 at 19 Alderley Street, Hulme, Manchester, son of William Herbert Smith, a bookkeeper, and his wife, Marie Stetzer. He was educated in Manchester, first worked there in a cotton spinner's warehouse, and became well known as a concert singer, performing at such local venues as the ...

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Barker, Henry Aston (1774–1856), panorama proprietor and painter, younger son of Robert Barker (1739–1806), the panorama painter, and his wife, Catherine, née Aston (1744–1842), was born in Glasgow. At the age of twelve he was set to work by his father to take the outlines of the city of ...

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Ronald William George Barker (1929–2005) by unknown photographer, 1975 Getty Images

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Barker, Ronald William George [Ronnie] (1929–2005), actor and comedian, was born on 25 September 1929 at 70 Garfield Street, Bedford, the only son and second of the three children of Leonard William Barker, a clerk for Shell, and his wife, Edith Eleanor, née...

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Barrasford, Thomas (1859–1910), variety theatre entrepreneur, was born at East Jarrow, Westoe, co. Durham, on 2 November 1859, the son of Henry Barrasford, ballast keelman, and his wife, Ann, née Sheraton. His father became a publican, and Thomas followed him into the licensed trade, taking a number of public houses in ...

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Joseph Knight

revised by Katharine Cockin

Bartley, George (1782?–1858), comedian, was born in Bath in or about 1782; one source states 1784. His father was box-keeper at the Bath theatre, and he thus had early opportunities of acquiring some stage experience, appearing in such characters as the page in ...

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Beckman, Sir Martin (1634/5–1702), pyrotechnist and military engineer, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of Melcher Beckman and his wife, Christiana van Benningen. Their names and his profession suggest a Dutch origin.

By his own account Beckman left his native Sweden about 1645 in order to serve the English crown. His brother served as a royalist captain in the civil war and was royal engineer to the exiled ...