here I was, this former bank clerk from Plumstead having lunch with one of the comedy greats of show business..

By 27th January 2022 No Comments

I was sad to hear the news earlier today that the great comedian and comedy writer Barry Cryer, has died at the age of 86.

Barry was a legend of comedy, having written for many of this country’s greatest ever comedy giants and he was also a star of the airwaves in much loved radio shows such as ‘Just a Minute’ and ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’.

I was fortunate enough to have ‘worked’ with Barry when I was at The Football League and, on one memorable occasion, to have spent a very enjoyable few hours with him over lunch.

I first met Barry when he was booked to be the after-dinner speaker at the 1997 Football League Chairmen’s Conference. I was his liaison at The League and his ‘collaborator’ on providing him with details about some of the personalities and current issues he could reference in his speech.

Here’s my diary extracts from June and July 1997:

Friday 13th June 1997

At about 5.00pm, I went to the Kensington Tara Hotel for the first night of the Chairmen’s Conference. A black-tie dinner at 7.30pm with Barry Cryer as the after-dinner speaker, was the event that kicked-off the Conference Weekend and I have to say, the evening went extremely well.

I met Barry at 6.30pm in reception and took him to the bar where we discussed some of the issues and the personalities he intended to mention in his speech. From chatting to Barry, I quickly realised though that I might well be featuring quite prominently in it!

Football League Chairman David Sheepshanks spoke first, followed by Philip Williamson of sponsors Nationwide Building Society and then Barry Cryer stood up. Sure enough, I got ‘one or two’ mentions over the course of the next 45 minutes!

At one point, referring to me; Barry told the audience that earlier that day I had asked him ‘why it was that mirrors steamed up when I kissed them’! As you can imagine, this went down very well with the Club representatives and my colleagues in the audience, who seemed to recognise that this could well have been a question I’d ask! I was absolutely delighted though to be such a useful stooge for one of my absolute comedy heroes.

Friday 11th July 1997

At 12.00 Barry Cryer and my colleague at The League, the legendary referee Jack Taylor, arrived to join me for lunch at Valentino’s, the Italian restaurant opposite The Football League’s commercial offices in Old Marylebone Road. I had invited Barry to join Jack and I after his great work with us at the recent Chairmen’s Conference.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself but I couldn’t help thinking, here I was, this former bank clerk from Plumstead having lunch with one of the comedy greats of show business together with the man who refereed the iconic 1974 World Cup Final between the Netherlands and West Germany. It really doesn’t get any better than this!

I was in my element chatting to Barry and listening to his stories about the famous names he has worked with, such as Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Kenny Everett, The Two Ronnies, Frankie Howerd and many others.

The two hours Jack and I spent with Barry chatting about all things Show Business and Football, had nothing whatsoever to do with work but we all had a great time.

Thanks for the Memories Barry, RIP.