Tributes to great British ventriloquist Ray Alan

Posted May 26, 2010 by Andrew John
The ventriloquist Ray Alan – creator of the posh Lord Charles – has died suddenly at the age of 79. He was a regular on British television screens over four decades
A young Ray Alan with Lord Charles
A young Ray Alan with Lord Charles
BBC publicity photograph
From the 1950s to the 1980s, Alan appeared on many shows, including Sunday Night at the London Palladium, Des O’Connor Tonight, The Golden Shot, Surprise, Surprise, Celebrity Squares, Give Us a Clue, 3-2-1 and the long-running variety serial The Good Old Days, where he and his ever-popular, ever-smiling dummy Lord Charles made their debut.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Alan presented the much-loved British TV show Tich and Quackers. The children’s programme starred the eponymous characters Tich, a small boy, and Quackers, his pet duck, who were ventriloquist dummies.
He was a regular guest on the BBC Radio 2 series, The Impressionists, which he then hosted from 1980 to 1988.
Alan was a scriptwriter and author. He wrote numerous television scripts, including for Tony Hancock, Morecambe and Wise, the Two Ronnies, and, also, The Army Game (which starred William Hartnell
Tich and Quackers Annual  1968
Tich and Quackers Annual, 1968
before his Doctor Who days) and its spinoff Bootsie and Snudge, which starred Clive Dunn, who went on to be best known for playing Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army.
His work as an author is more recent, with Death and Deception (2007), A Game of Murder (2008) and A Fear of Vengeance (2010), under the name Ray Whyberd.
Alan’s BBC obituary states
In later years he was an entertainer on QE2 cruises, but was forced to take a break from show business in 2008 due to ill health. Old age had also made it increasingly difficult for him to control his puppet.
Alan began his career as a teenager, with his ventriloquism act developing from pretending there were voices coming from a box on stage.
Apparently, Lord Charles’s character was based on a man Alan saw at a cabaret show, and the puppet’s face was modelled on Stan Laurel.
In 1954, Alan worked with Laurel and Hardy, after standing in for Harry Worth, a fellow ventriloquist who had been forced to pull out of a show.
Lord Charles became famous for his catchphrase “you silly arse”, usually appearing to be drunk and having an eye for glamorous women.
Fond memories
Peter Pritchard, his agent of 30 years, told the BBC: “Technically, he was regarded as Britain’s top ventriloquist. You couldn’t see his mouth moving.
“He was tremendously well liked in the business and he had been in the entertainment business all his life,” he added.
Since his death memories and tributes from members of the public have sprung up all over the Internet, people obviously feeling nostalgic about a bygone age.
Martin Dale, writing on Lasting Tribute, said: “This guy was always on telly when I was little. I didn’t realise Lord Charles was supposed to be a drunkard though! Happy times, of seaside specials and Saturday night TV. Thanks for the fun Ray, hope you can take the spirit of Charles with you!”
And, Fi B writes: “I loved Tich and Quackers [. . .] Some puppets used to scare me but they never did. But looking back at the pictures today I’m surprised they didn’t.”
Jill Woollard, on Gone Too Soon, writes: “I was fortunate enough to meet this charming man about 30years ago. He was performing with his act at our local theatre and came in to the nearby chemist where I was working on several occasions. He always had a smile and would engage easily in conversation, often breaking up the monotony of an otherwise boring day. A genuinely lovely man. And a sad loss.”
On the Gallifrey Base “Tranquil Repose” page, this comes from cymroglan: “Rest in peace old chum. I saw Ray on stage three times about 12 years ago. Mostly on Cromer pier. He was technically the very best vent I ever saw and a lovely man. My son and I approached him for autographs at the end of one of these shows and my son who was about 8 at the time asked if he could have his photo taken in the Lord Charles position! After much ribald hilarity, Ray duly obliged. My son treasures the photo to this day! A lovely man.”
Died in his sleep
And this, from stevendean: “Very sad news. I remember seeing him on TV all the time years ago, and hadn't thought about him until seeing the Smilers in this year’s [Doctor Who episode] The Beast Below. They reminded me of ventriloquists’ dummies and brought back so many memories. Thanks, Ray!”
Pritchard said that Alan had complained of feeling unwell. He died in his sleep at his home in Reigate, Surrey, UK, where he’d lived with his wife, Julie.
And, the final word from Ray Alan himself. Speaking to the BBC in 2006, he said of Lord Charles: “Oh, no, I’m not one of those ventriloquists who think he’s real. When I finish my work, I put it back in the tool box and I don’t take it out again until the next job.”