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Tony Hancock statue in Birmingham Old Square

Tony Hancock

To many people Tony Hancock was probably the best known comedian of the 1960s. He was born at 41 Southam Road, Hall Green, Birmingham, on 12 May 1924, but within three years his family moved to Bournemouth. His father kept a public house in Bournemouth where theatrical people, like Elsie and Doris Waters, used to stay.

He served in the forces throughout the Second World War, from 1942, as a member of the Royal Air Force. Before he became a part of Ralph Reader's RAF Gang Show he had had some experience as a youthful amateur entertainer, and after his demob in 1946 he was experienced enough to find himself continual engagements in pantomime, in summer seasons in holiday resorts, and occasionally as a straight actor.

In 1948 he was employed by the Windmill Theatre, which led to radio and then to television. From 1951 to 1953 he added a new voice to the radio show, Educating Archie and then in 1954 his lugubrious character appeared on radio in Hancock's Half Hour, and then from 1956 to 1960 on television with superb scripts written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.

He left Britain in March 1968 to work on a proposed comedy series for Australian television but was found dead in his Sydney flat on 25 June 1968 with an empty vodka bottle and an empty bottle of sleeping pills at his side.

A plaque on the exterior of 41 Southam Road commemorates his birth. A statue in his memory stands in Old Square - appropriately the former home of the Birmingham Blood Transfusion Service. The statue was unveiled by Sir Harry Secombe in 1996. It has since been moved a few yards, to the centre of Old Square.

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