Thursday, 18 August 2016

In praise of Willie

As we celebrate the fact that today would have been the birthday of the much-missed satirist, cartoonist and personality Willie Rushton, I stumbled across a rather rather fab personal tribute by one of the "QI Elves", Stevyn Colgan:
I Miss My Willie!

I was watching QI the other night and I started to think about all of the wonderfully intelligent comedians and writers that will never appear on the show; not because of contractual obligations or other engagements but because they have shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the Choir Invisible. People like Douglas Adams, Peter Cook, Roald Dahl, Les Dawson, Kenny Everett, Stephen Jay Gould, Joyce Grenfell, Marty Feldman, Pete McCarthy, Ronnie Barker, Spike Milligan, Eric Morecombe, Leonard Rossiter, Terry-Thomas, Kenneth Williams, Graham Chapman, P G Wodehouse, Dudley Moore, Alan Coren, Frank Muir and the wonderful Mr William Rushton...

...He was a constant source of joy and amusement for me. I bought his books. I listened to him on Radio 4. I tried to copy his art style and failed dismally. He was one of my heroes in the best traditions of the word. And yet, for many people, the name Willie Rushton conjures up nothing more than that silly bearded man who was always on ITV's Celebrity Squares in the 1970s.

Oh dear. Oh dearie dearie me. We must put that right, mustn't we?
And so Mr Colgan does - charting Willie's progress from National Service to satire, which led, inevitably, to his pivotal role in the founding of Private Eye and becoming part of the original team on telly's That Was The Week That Was, to his forays into the world of light entertainment on film, television and on radio. And of course, it was the latter medium that gave Mr Rushton his lasting legacy, as part of the core panel of Radio 4's cult hit show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.

As the article concludes: "He is a great loss and the world is a slightly sadder place without him." Indeed.

By way of our own little tribute here at Dolores Delargo Towers, here's his classic paean to that most tawdry of London suburbs, Neasden:

I’ve been as far as Orpington, Tufnell Park, and Golders Green,
Seen the Northern Lights of ‘Arlesden,
And visited East Cheam.
I’ve travelled out to Ongar, on the dear old Central Line,
I even went to Ruislip, in 1949.

I’ve been far South as Tooting Bec, where sheep may safely graze,
And I sometimes think it’s hard to say where I’d like to end my days.
But then I shout – Oh Arthur, what a berk you are!
There’s a little place you love just off the North Circular -
They call it…..


Yer won’t be sorry that yer breezed in!
The traffic lights an’ yellow lines
An’ the illoominated signs
All say welcome to the borough that everybody’s pleased in:


Oh where the birds sing in the trees-den,
And you can ‘ear the blackbirds coo,
So why not take the Bakerloo?
It’ll work out that much cheaper if you buy a seasden!

After the show, why not take a stroll down Neasden High Street, and turn right into Milletts, in the Selfridge Road? Or pop into the Public Library and browse at your leisure in the many Newspapers on display. Then, why not dawdle in the neon-lit Launderama? - only 3p for as much as 4lbs of assorted bagwash. Or spend a carefree evening at the Rann of Kutch, THE Neasden Curry Emporium, European and Continental dishes a speciality…..


Oh where the rissoles are deep-freezed-en
Oh where there’s Bingo and Boutiques,
And the Wimpys last for weeks,
And very tasty too with a slice of cheese-den!


You couldn’t want a better reasden,
Oh now I will not fake the thrill
When we hear at Forest Hill
That the next stop on the line
Is the place that I call mine

Is it Sodom or Gomorrah?
No it’s God’s own Borough!


William George Rushton (18th August 1937 – 11th December 1996)


  1. Oh I liked Willie Rushton! He was even in an episode of Colditz.

    1. Very versatile man, indeed - I remember particularly enjoying him reading Winnie the Pooh on 'Jackanory'... Jx


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