Sunday, 1 November 2015

A little clown’s talents revealed

Above: The many faces of Reg Varney, by cartoonist SPARK 

After the revised edition of Fairlynch Museum’s publication The Budleigh Salterton Railway, something rather different.

Work is in progress on a souvenir booklet which will accompany next year’s centenary exhibition to mark the birth of entertainer and former Budleigh resident Reg Varney.

With a Foreword by the Museum’s Patron Lord Clinton, the booklet will cover more than just the comedy actor’s successes in shows like ‘The Rag Trade’ and ‘On the Buses’. 

Born in Canning Town, in London’s East End, Reg Varney first made his name as a pianist and singer in working men’s clubs and cinemas. He is seen here, aged 15, in a gypsy costume made by his sister Bella in preparation for his first public performance at the Plumstead Radical Club in south-east London.

His secret ambition while still at school had been to study art. Unfortunately there was a problem. “As I was such a dunce at arithmetic I failed the simple sums test I was given, so that was the end of my dream”, he explained in his autobiography The Little Clown.
Reg was certainly a gifted artist. He completed this study of two dogs at the age of 13.   

Later, in retirement he had the chance to show off his artistic talents, producing fine oil paintings like this landscape.

A bout of pneumonia as a child left Reg Varney with cardiac problems and he suffered two heart attacks during his lifetime. The booklet and the exhibition are being prepared in association with the British Heart Foundation.  

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