Top Picture: The Singing Postman, Allan Smethurst
Bottom Picture: The top of a Court Lane School Report Sheet. I had not realized that when we moved to Manor Court we took the motto with us.
The early 1960’s was a strange time for the music industry. Roll & Roll was still hanging on and the Liverpool Sound was up and running and colouring everything in sight. But from this mish mash of music somehow the comedy record still had a place. Charley Drake had several comedy hits as did Bernard Breslaw and believe it of not Arthur Mullard, but one of our home grown talents who was a cross between a folk singer, a comedy performer and a pop star was The Singing Postman, Allan Smethurst.
The Singing Postman came to fame for a short time in the early 1960’s as a novelty pop star with songs like the 1965 hit ‘Hev Yew Gotta Loight Boy?’, which won an Ivor Novello award for best novelty song in 1966. Allan Smethurst recorded some 80 songs, all in his broad Norfolk dialect, including ‘I Miss My Miss from Diss’ and ‘Oi Can't Get A Noice Loaf of Bread’.
He was actually born in Bury in Lancashire on November 18th, 1927 - but at the age of two his family moved to Sheringham in North Norfolk, his mother was a Norfolk lass and so he grew up in the area and developed a broad Norfolk accent. In 1953 he joined the Post Office as a postman a position he held for twelve years. He had no musical training and was often to be heard out on his rounds singing to himself. Musically he was inspired by the likes of George Formby and Jimmie Rodgers but it wasn't until he was over 21 that he decided to teach himself to play the guitar.
Having mastered the guitar an written a few songs he sent a demo tape to Ralph Tuck who, at that time, compered a regional radio programme called 'Wednesday Morning'. This was fortunate for Allan Smethurst as within a short space of time Ralph Tuck set up his own recording company and produced Allan Smethurst's first record - which appeared in 1964.
That song was ‘Hev Yew Gotta Loight Boy?’ and on it’s release it rose to number 7 in the national charts and for a brief period the Singing Postman was outselling both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
In 1965 he gave up his day job at the Post Office (earning £12 a week) and embarked on a full time musical career. He always performed in his Royal Mail uniform and in fact the Royal Mail objected to him doing this and after he left their service, they demanded their uniform back so he had to have one especially made. At the height of his fame he appeared on the same edition of Top of the Pops as the Rolling Stones. But his let down was that he suffered badly from stage fright and could not cope with fame, he began to rely on drink and eventually became an alcoholic and appeared regularly in the local courts.
He never defeated his alcoholism and in fact spent the last 20 years of his life in a Salvation Army hostel in Grimsby.
By 1970 he was on the dole and said of his showbiz earnings: "I've been foolish and spent the lot. It's gone on hotel bills, travelling, entertaining and a few pints here and there." By this time he was also suffered from arthritis which stopped him playing the guitar.
There were several promises of a comeback but the closest he came to the limelight was when ‘Hev Yew Gorra Loight Boy?’ was used as on a TV commercial for Ovaltine in 1994, which for a time game him a small amount of royalties. Rolf Harris had recorded some ofhis songs and on hearing of the situation that Alan Smethurst was in, started to visit him but he broke his hip in a fall in 2000 and his health rapidly deteriorated and he died just before Christmas 2000.
The woman who was the inspiration behind one of his most famous characters said she was saddened by news of his death although she had not seen him for years. Mollie (Windley) Bayfield was immortalised in the song ‘Hev Yew Gorra Loight Boy?’, she was the chain-smoking Norfolk girl, if you remember the words of the song they went ‘Mollie Windley, she smoked like a chimney, but she’s my little nicotine gal’ .
But there is no denying that the Singing Postman was most certainly a one off; and one of those glorious British eccentrics which make life interesting as can be seen from the list of song titles below:-
Bin Born A Long Time
I Wear Horn Rimmed Glasses
When The Moon Peeps O'er The Hill
Hev Yew Gotta Loight Boy?
Followin' Th' Binder Round
The Devil's Hoofprints
Miss From Diss
Moind Yer Head, Boy
You'll Hatta Come Along a Me
Ha' Yer Fa'er Got a Dickey, Boy?
Oi Shot a Rabbit Up a Tree
They don’t write songs like that any more !!!!!!!!
While Allan Smethurst was afraid he would be remembered for just the one song, like the man himself it has become a metaphor for a fast disappearing way of life.
Keep in touch
Sad News from Gill:
Hi Peter Just want to say I lost my husband a few weeks ago to a massive brain haemorrhage, the cancer had spread to his spine but I am in total shock, one day at Farnborough and next night gone. Still enjoying the website and have contacted a few people don’t mind if you put it on the School site, kind regards Gill(brewer).
By way of reply to your "Who remembers Fishy Frances' Chip shop".
In my last year at Court Lane before going to Manor Court I well remember sitting on the wall outside that shop eating a penny (1d) bag of chips, while my parents spent an hour or so in the New Inn.
Does anybody know what happened to Michael Harrison, Richard Coppin, Keith Ware or Brian Longland (4th year, Court Lane, 1961). They were in Mr. Sterries (? spelling) class with me, a rather unpleasant teacher if memory serves me well. I seem to recall we had some occasional lessons with Mr. Tennouth (again ? spelling), we called him 'Tin Tack'.
Court Lane head, Miss Henderson, started to 'lose her marbles' while I was there. She was regularly found at night by the police, wandering the streets in her nightdress!
News and Views:
A rediscovered haul of television dramas that has been lost for 40 years is set to change the way we think about many of Britain's biggest acting stars. The extraordinary cache of televised plays –features performances from John Gielgud, Sean Connery, Gemma Jones, Dorothy Tutin, Robert Stephens, Susannah York, John Le Mesurier, Peggy Ashcroft, Patrick Troughton, David Hemmings, Leonard Rossiter, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith and Jane Asher. The tapes have been unearthed in the Library of Congress in Washington DC. After months of negotiation, the library and the New York-based television station WNET have agreed to allow the British Film Institute in London to showcase the highlights in November. The tapes are understood to have been sent out to WNET for broadcast and later stored in the TV station's collection inside the Library of Congress, where they were recently catalogued. They were originally broadcast between 1957 and 1970.
Jane Asher appears in a 1962 schools production of Romeo and Juliet, along with another 1967 Play of The Month staging of the same Shakespeare play, starring Kika Markham as Juliet, Hywel Bennett as Romeo and John Gielgud as the chorus. Among the bit players are Thora Hird and Michael Gambon, while Ronald Pickup plays Mercutio.
On this day 25th September 1960-1965.
On 25/09/1960 the number one single was Apache - The Shadows and the number one album was Down Drury Lane to Memory Lane - A Hundred and One Strings. The top rated TV show was The Army Game (Granada) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions
On 25/09/1961 the number one single was Reach for the Stars / Climb Ev'ry Mountain - Shirley Bassey and the number one album was The Shadows - Shadows. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 25/09/1962 the number one single was She's Not You - Elvis Presley and the number one album was Best of Ball Barber & Bilk. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 25/09/1963 the number one single was She Loves You - The Beatles and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 25/09/1964 the number one single was I'm Into Something Good - Herman's Hermits and the number one album was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 25/09/1965 the number one single was Make It Easy On Yourself - Walker Brothers and the number one album was Help - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions