Tuesday, November 8 – 1977
Ted Ray was still cracking gags when he went into hospital last week for what he described as check-up.
But Sybil, his wife for 45 years, said yesterday: “I think we both knew it was goodbye.”
Liverpool’s music halls fifty years ago, died aged 71 in Highlands Hospital, North London.
Said Sybil: “Last night the last words he spoke to me were ‘Don’t forget, I love you.’
“I have made up my mind not to cry. In a way it is better he has gone and does not have to face any more pain.”
The last two years of the man who was once Britain’s top comedian were beset by problems. He never really recovered – physically or emotionally – from a bad car smash in 1975. At the time he admitted that he had lost the will to live.
“I didn’t care what happened to me,” he said. “I’d go to sleep at night just hoping I wouldn’t wake up, next day.”
And he spoke out frankly about his heavy drinking.
He said: “Drink is a problem. It’s too easy to hit the bottle if you work in the clubs.
“That’s the sort of state I was in when I had my accident. A lot of my friends has died – and that’s what I wanted to do.”
But if the end was sad, they heyday of Ted Ray was triumphant. He was born Charlie Olden in Wigan, and spent his childhood on Merseyside, where he played football for Liverpool Reserves.
He started in music halls with a gypsy fiddler act, then pioneered a new casual approach to comedy. He threw away all his funny hats and “props” and strolled onstage in his street clothes.
“Why keep yourself aloof from the audience?” he said later. “Why not be one of them – just human.”
His greatest success was the radio show “Ray’s A Laugh,” and he also starred in films and on TV, where he was recently a regular “New Faces ‘panellist.
Viewers last saw him two weeks ago, at a lunch to mark his friend Jimmy Jewel’s fifty years of comedy.
Ray, whose two sons Robin and Andrew, are also in show business, once said: “If I had another six lives I’d want to be a comedian in every one of them.”
(Daily Mirror, 09-11-1977)