Column: Jimmy Cricket - Tribute to Barry Chuckle
The untimely death of Barry Chuckle in August has prompted a cherished memory of working in pantomime with him and his brother Paul 28 years ago.It was 1990, the Darlington Civic. The subject was Cinderella and the boys played Brokers’ Men while I played Buttons. Now wait for this readers, it was a 10-week season. These days most pantos don’t last half that long.
I got particularly close to Barry because we both stayed in a hotel near the theatre, whereas Paul and his wife rented a cottage a few miles away.As well as loving comedy, something else bonded Barry and I together – food. Let me explain, folks. When you’re away from home working in a long run, one of the top priorities is getting a decent meal. Oh yes, you can get a good hearty breakfast in your hotel in the morning, but as the day progresses the hunger pangs start kicking in around tea time, especially in panto, where you have lots of matinees as well as evening performances.
Barry found the answer to our problems when he discovered Crombie’s. Crombie’s served delightful home cooked grub and, in a sea of fast food establishments, it was an oasis.There we would hold court discussing the joys and perils of showbusiness and generally putting the world to right. We became firm friends with the proprietor, Mrs Crombie herself.Barry would tell me about his family who were steeped in showbiz history. His father Gene Elliott did a song and dance and whistling act, and his two older brothers, Jimmy and Brian, also did a double act under the name the Patton Brothers. Two comedy double acts in the one family. What are the chances of that?
Barry told me how he and Paul got their big break on BBC children’s television. They started out working on a series that featured ventriloquist Ward Alan, where they played two characters called the Chuckle Hounds. They were such a hit they were handed their own show called Chucklevision. Their slapstick, knockabout comedy captivated the hearts of children of all ages and their catchphrase, ‘To Me, To You’ etched itself into the nation’s consciousness. The series ran for 22 years.
To give you an idea how popular they became, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed and the first Northern Ireland Government came into being, with Reverend Ian Paisley as Prime Minister and Martin McGuinness as his deputy, they were snapped that many times smiling and laughing for the cameras, that the local media nicknamed them Chuckle Brothers.Paul tells a true story where both he and Barry were filming their TV series near an army barracks. Coming into view from round the corner, he saw the sergeant doing marching drill with his soldiers. When the Sergeant noticed the boys, his instructions went from, Left, Right, to, To You, To Me.
My son Frank reminded me of the time both he and his older brother Dale went with me to a football match. Now this was no ordinary football match... the boys were staunch supporters of their home town team, Rotherham United. In fact, I vividly remember every Saturday during panto, when they weren’t on stage they would be glued to the television finding out how their favourite team were getting on.
Well, they actually sponsored a home match and invited fellow performers to the game. Although I can’t recall the opposing team. I do remember vividly that Rotherham were trailing 2-0 at half-time. Well in the second half Rotherham made an amazing comeback and won the game 3-2. With every goal Barry and Paul jumped six feet in the air. Boy, were those guys animated.
Yes Barry, you and your brother have given us all so much fun over the years, and you personally have given me so many special happy memories of the meal and laughs we shared together.
Next month: Our trip to Las Vegas, and the response I got when I asked for a half of shandy in the Paris Hotel on the Strip.Catch Jimmy on:- [email protected]