English Peculiar: Mr Pastry



While I was staying in a very English cottage Kent last weekend, I noticed that the guest book pointed out other former residents, including Mr Pastry. This one is as peculiar as it gets, so stay with me. Britain was once awash in novelty acts, from the man who sang ‘Mule Train’ while bashing himself on the head with a tin tea tray to Shirley Abicair and her zither.

Richard ‘Mr Pastry’ Hearne worked on and off for the BBC for 30 years and became the first performer to be known as a “television star”. He was also the first to have his own television series. In it he assumed the character of “Mr Pastry” – an old man with a walrus moustache, dressed in a black suit and bowler hat.

The Mr Pastry character had originated in the 1936 stage show Big Boy. A film was made but portrayed him as a pathetic figure coming out of prison, totally different from the TV series’ bumbling comic. Hearne came from a family of actors and acrobats, so his abilities were rather like Michael Crawford’s, being part slapstick, part all-round comic. Most famous bits include doing the Lancers by himself and being generally very, very annoying.

27 comments on “English Peculiar: Mr Pastry”

  1. Wayne says:

    I have that book on the shelf somewhere, it been a age since I looked at it. I never knew he was the first Television Star.

  2. Bangbang!! says:

    I’d totally forgotten about the mule train guy. When I was a kid I thought that was the funniest thing I’d ever seen.

  3. Phil says:

    He was considered for Doctor Who in the seventies but supposedly wanted to play The Doctor as Mr Pastry! An obviously insane idea

  4. Peter Dixon says:

    There were a plethora of superannuated music hall acts who were forced on child viewers at the time – my pet hate was Peter Glaze on Crackerjack; he was obviously very cheap or he had some photographs of the producer in a criminal act.

    Apparently he had been an understudy for every one of The Crazy Gang – a fact I would probably leave out of my CV.

  5. chris hughes says:

    I used to love Mr Pastry – when I was about seven or eight. My mum hated him so at least adults in the fifties did have some good taste. I was, though, privileged to see the last show (not THE last show but during the last run) of the Crazy Gang at the Victoria Palace and they were absolutely hilarious – quite rude, not just saucy but rude to the audience too – subversive by the standards of the late fifties/early sixties. As far as odd acts go, does anyone else remember the record of Narcissus by Norman Wisdom and Joyce Grenfell?

  6. Tony Walker says:

    And then we had the abominable ‘Mick and Montmorency’, starring the terminally unfunny Charlie Drake, whose main talent seemed to be falling over, or being thrown through windows.

  7. Alan says:

    Peter Dixon: Yes, Peter Glaze on Crackerjack. Here he is giving a rendition of ‘Golden Years’ in 1976. As a Bowie fan, I found this particularly disturbing at the time.


  8. C Falconer says:

    Oh Lord – Charlie Drake – yes totally dire. Wasn’t there someone called Freddie something in a bowler hat and his budgies? or it may just have been a cheese dream…

    I suppose the last hold out of this sort of act was Benny Hill.

  9. Paul Graham says:

    Could that possibly be ‘Freddie “Parrot Face” Davies’ perhaps C.F.?

    I don’t know why but I always found him quite sinister as a child.

  10. C Falconer says:

    That’s him! Yes – really scary in a early-70s Dr Who type scariness. Didn’t he used to have a speech impediment too for “extra” hilarity?

  11. admin says:

    Lord – I blame myself for starting this thread! Charlie Drake broke his back being thrown through a bookcase live on TV but did one interesting – and very long-running – show. Much of ‘The Worker’ was extremely surreal and clever. Freddie Parrot Face Davies blew raspberries when he spoke, not unlike a guy called unfunny Jack ‘Waaay-hey’-something, whose sole comic tic was a, er, tic. He turned up in a later Carry On film. Awful. God, we were easily amused.

  12. Paul Graham says:

    Er…That would be Jack Douglas Admin…Sorry can’t help it. I blame too much TV as a child in the ’70s.

    The waaay hey thing was a character(!) he performed as “Alf Ippititimus”. I think modern eyes would not look kindly upon the portrayal of someone with such a debilitating neurological condition.

  13. Rich says:

    My next door neighbour when I was a kid went on Jim’ll Fix It to meet Freddie “Parrot-Face” Davies. Not sure he admits to his claim to fame now :0)

  14. Jo W says:

    Reading the comments today,Chris,it has occurred to me that I’m not alone. There are more of us out there,old enough to remember seeing these odd comedic characters!

  15. snowy says:

    Don’t be too rude about Fred Davies, he is still kicking about. And still doing occasional bits and pieces in films and TV, he was in one of the wizard pictures if I remember.

    In fact I’ve decided you are all being complete meanies, most of the roles complained about are all from children’s programmes. A format not known for allowing an… artiste to display their range and sensitivity…. *sniff*.

    Save your disdain for those who booked the acts, plate spinners? Vents whose act was more wooden than their dummies? And to put the tin lid on the thing, who would now believe you could get 6 minutes out of somebody tearing up newspapers?

    [Though even if I say it myself, I can still knock out a cracking palm tree from a broadsheet. A skill I’ve yet to call on ‘in anger’, but you live in hope.]

  16. Jo W says:

    Hey,Snowy! I wasn’t mean about the acts mentioned. I was just amazed that there are so many of us out there,of a ‘certain age’ shall I say, who remember these actors. And don’t forget,in those days there wasn’t a lot to be gained by channel hopping. If you didn’t like what was showing – there was that pile of books from the library. Oh happy days!

  17. Peter Dixon says:

    Similar to Jack Douglas was Eli Woods “Our Eli” who used to turn up on the Des O’Connor show, Crackerjack and all manner of variety shows. He was a gangly flat capped northern type character with a wall-eye and a speech impediment. His catchphrase was “Are you putting it about that I’m daft”?

  18. snowy says:

    Jo, I consider myself to be suitably chastened.

    [As should the legions of saw torturers, spoon botherers and anybody who thinks wrapping toilet paper around a comb constitutes a valid form of musical entertainment.]

  19. Jo W says:

    Snowy! Ha ha! ( btw always use izal or bronco to get a good note. Soft bogroll tends to stick to the lips!)

  20. R Brown says:

    God what a bunch of snobs. How dare northern comedians presume to appear on our televisions or films. Only cool americans can do that. Am I right?

  21. Wayne Mook says:

    Why do I suddenly think of Norman Collier after reading this, when he wasn’t pretending to be a chicken there was something wrong with his microphone (his club work/stand-up was very different, but hey ho.). Freddy ‘Parrot Face’ Davies was always ‘sick, sick, sick up to here’. I still have a copy of My Boomerang Won’t Come Back by Charlie Drake.

    Well at least these days we have Dick and Dom.


  22. Adam says:

    What about Bernie Clifton and his comedy ostrich?

  23. John Griffin says:

    Never laughed at any of them, especially Norman Wisdom. Loved Max Wall.

  24. Adam says:

    Alan: with reference to murdering Bowie, I’ll see your Peter Glaze, and raise you the Krankies http://www.popscreen.com/v/79UGX/Starman-The-Krankies

  25. Alan says:

    Adam: I’d really like to thank you for that Krankies clip. But I can’t. Dear God!

  26. Wayne Mook says:

    I’ll see your Krankies and raise a William Shatner Starman, I know he’s Canadian but it’s close enough.

    You know I saw Little & Large in panto, Eddy Large with a guitar on a bouncing guitar strap, Plus I saw Ken Dodd’s Laughter Show, no Diddy Men sadly. I actually found Ken Dodd funny. On that confession I will stop.


  27. Helen Martin says:

    Canadian is not “close” when talking about Americans, although Mr. Shatner can cause a desire for bags to pull over one’s heads. Still, he’s having fun.

Comments are closed.

Posted In