I don’t know why but it seems that the more channels there are available the more difficult it is to find a decent and entertaining programme to watch. Plus these days there is competition from the World Wide Web, which didn’t exist when I was a teenager. I lived for so many years without, computers and internet, without mobile phones and digital cameras, without WIFI and What’s App, and now I can’t imagine life without them. I really enjoyed growing up in Cardiff; I think we were much more creative in the past at finding things to occupy our time, and that made life much more interesting and entertaining.
These days if internet is down or the television isn’t working for some reason, most young people seem at a loss to know what to do. Anyway, that’s just my opinion, back to the story.
There have been many great British comedians, you only have to think of Charlie Chaplin, Benny Hill, Rowan Atkinson, (Mr. Bean), Ricky Gervais and John Cleese of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers fame. However, there is another name that should be added to the list.
On the 19th of March 1921, in the town of Caerphilly, South Wales, just to the north of Cardiff a boy, who was later to become a great magician and comedian, was born. His name was Thomas Frederick Cooper. When he was three years old the family moved to Devon in the south west of England. It was there that he went to school and on weekends helped with the family business selling ice creams from a van at local fairs.
When he was eight an aunt gave him a magic set and that was the catalyst that set him on the road to stardom as a magician, and prop comedian. Known just as Tommy Cooper he became a household name in Britain. His show was a mixture of slapstick and prop comedy mixed with magic. I remember as a young lad in Wales, watching Tommy Cooper on television, and he always made me laugh even though his act was crazy and seemingly disorganised. His humour and magic revolved around things going wrong rather than being very slick and clever, but he was immensely funny. He always used to wear a red Fez on stage with his hair sticking out at both sides and sometimes a large cigar stuck in his mouth.
He started using the fez hat during the Second World War. He was initially stationed in Egypt serving with Montgomery’s Desert Rats, and there became a member of the NAAFI – Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes – entertainment group. He developed an act around the magic he had learned as a young child, but in one act he had forgotten to pick up the Pith hat he was going to use and instead grabbed a red fez from a passing waiter. This got a good laugh from the audience and he continued to wear a fez hat in his shows from then on.
Tommy Cooper collapsed on stage during a live, televised performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre. At first people in the audience thought it was part of the performance and initially laughed, but then realised something was wrong. He was pulled behind the stage curtain and efforts were made to resuscitate him. An ambulance arrived and he was rushed to hospital, where sadly he was pronounced dead on arrival.
In 2008, a statue of Tommy Cooper was unveiled in his hometown, Caerphilly, by the Welsh actor, Sir Anthony Hopkins. The statue is just outside Caerphilly Castle. You can see pictures of the castle here.
You can watch two video tributes to Tommy Cooper here.
There is one joke of his which has always stuck in my mind;
A man walked into a bar and said, “OUCH.” It was an iron bar.
The old ones are the best, silly, but funny.
In January, 1823, a man named William Buckland, walked into a cave, and I have no idea what he said, because as far as I am aware his words were not documented, however, unless he hit his head on a rock inside the cave, he probably didn’t scream, “OUCH!”
The cave in question is known as Paviland or more commonly, Goat’s Hole Cave, and is situated along the Gower Peninsula in South Wales. I often used to go to the Gower when I lived in Cardiff; there are some staggeringly beautiful beaches and bays to be found there.
Inside the cave the Rev William Buckland discovered the bones of a human from the Upper Paleolithic era. The bones were dyed with red ochre and thought to be female, and so the find became known as, The Red Lady of Paviland.
The previous year, 1822, separate expeditions to the cave had discovered a mammoth tusk and Elephant bones - It’s hard to imagine mammoths and elephants roaming around South Wales.
The bones of The Red Lady from Paviland have since been identified as those of a man who was no older than 21 when he died, and are about 33,000 years old, dating back to around. 24,000BC.
You can read about the find here;
24,000 years before Christ seems like an eternity, however, the earliest remains of human existence found in Wales date back to approximately 225,000BC. In 1981, a team from the University of Wales, led by Dr Stephen Aldhouse Green, discovered some teeth and part of a jaw bone in a cave in the Elwy Valley, Denbighshire, North Wales. The site is known as the Bontnewydd Paleolithic Site or sometimes it is referred to as Pontnewydd Cave. The cave is near a hamlet named Bont-newydd or Newbridge in English.
The bones are thought to be those of a Neanderthal boy aged approximately eleven. Who knows how he died and how his life must have been, but I bet neither he nor The Red Lady of Paviland knew they would one day be famous and end up on the welshviews.com blog page!
I feel a lot younger now I’ve written this-very therapeutic.
If you would like to receive email notifications of updates to this site click here, fill in the relevant details and press submit