Origins of a star

Lieutenant Colin Churcher

THIS WEEK IN 1971: ‘Mine disposal officers get awards’

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In 1921 Peg Marks was appearing at the Kings Theatre, Southsea, in a show called Have a Dip!

She met Bill Sellers one day in a local Lyon’s Corner House cafe where he was playing I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles on the piano. They married in London two years later.

Back again on tour in Southsea in 1925, Peg was heavily pregnant. She gave birth immediately after a show, having been rushed back to a flat above a shop on the corner of Castle Street. On this day that year, Dr Little, of Southsea, delivered a baby boy who was to be christened Richard Henry.

Richard was soon called Peter after his elder stillborn brother. And so, a comic genius was born.

Described as an ‘outrageously spoiled child’, Peter was unusually close to his mother. He attended a Roman Catholic School in Highgate and was an unruly pupil at Miss Whitney’s School of Dancing in Green Road, Southsea.

The rest of his life was marred by psychological problems and a succession of failed relationships, but his professional life included, of course, The Goon Show, the films The Ladykillers (in which he acted with his idol Alec Guinness), I’m All Right Jack, The Pink Panther series and Being There. He died in 1980 – John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.