Friday, 15 December 2017

50 Years Ago: ‘The Boyhood’ at Budleigh – Pt 4

Continued from

Included in the papers in Fairlynch Museum archives relating to Joyce Dennys’ 1969 play ‘Sir Walter Raleigh’ is a handwritten document entitled ‘BBC Interview’ in which a Mike Claridge meets Sir Walter. It’s all very much part of the comic treatment of the Raleigh story, as used by American comedian Bob Newhart in his classic 1960s telephone conversation with Sir Walter about tobacco.

You can watch Bob Newhart’s performance at and the script is reproduced at 

But here’s Budleigh’s Salterton’s comic take on Sir Walter. Questions: who is or was Mike Claridge? And who wrote the script?

Enter R. Mike Claridge with mike.

M. Good evening, listeners. We have in the studio this evening a well loved personality – especially here in the West Country – Sir Walter Raleigh.

He holds an electric torch under R’s nose.

W. Rawleigh, please.

M. I beg your pardon?

W. Rawleigh – my name is Rawleigh.

M. That’s what I said – Rarley. Now, tell me, Walter. There’s been a good deal of talk down the ages about that little affair of the puddle and Queen Elizabeth and your cloak. Is it a true story or just a fable?

W. Well…

M. I know things get exaggerated in the press, but I must tell you the story has been widely circulated over the last three hundred years or so.

W. Well…

M. A lot of old age pensioners and children and those sort of folk believe it implicitly – it’s a case of simplicity really. I say, that’s rather good, don’t you think? Implicity – Simplicity. Ha, ha, ha.
He laughs at his own joke.

W. Well, you see…

M. Of course we at the BBC don’t believe it – actually we don’t believe much anything really – only ‘The Archers’ and Malcolm Muggeridge.

W. Well, you see – it was like this…

M. My own theory is that it was the beginning of a strip-tease act.

W. Strip-tease?

M. Yes. Strip-tease. You know.

W. I’m afraid I don’t.

M. Taking off your clothes…

W. What for?

M. I’m not sure. But you have to do that sort of thing of you want to be with it.

W. With what?

M. It.

W. to himself  I spent a good many years of my life on ships but was never more at sea than now.

M. We are straying from the point, Walter. People always stray from the point when they’re being interviewed. It’s nerves of course. Now, where were we?

W. Taking off our clothes.

M. Oh yes, of course – that business with the cloak. You didn’t really do it, did you, Walter?

W. Of course I did.

M. You astonish me.

W. Well, you see, Michael…

M. Mike.

W. I beg your pardon, Mike. Well, you see, Mike, it was like this, Liz had been a bit tetchy all the morning, you know.

M. Liz?

W. Queen Elizabeth.

M. Yes, of course.

W. I often called her Liz – we were on pretty good terms at the time, you know. In fact I might say without undue conceit I was one of her favourites, you know. She changed later. He sighs, sadly, and pauses. You know.

M. So I understand. Now Walter, you were saying the Queen had been a bit, well, irritable, all the morning.

W. She had indeed. In fact she was in a vile temper. Too much dancing and too much sack the night before. She was no longer young, you know, though we all had to pretend e thought she was. Her favourite you might be, but when she was in one of her moods, she’d suddenly, without any warning, shout ‘Off with his head!’

M. Like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland.

W. The Red Queen? I don’t think I’ve heard of her,

M. No, you wouldn’t. She was after your time. Go on, Walt.

W. Well, Mike, I saw Liz coming along with a face like a thunder cloud – if looks could kill I’d have fallen dead at her feet. ‘Take care, my boy,’ I said to myself, or you’ll have your head on the block. As a matter of fact that’s exactly where I did find it eventually, though it was nothing to do with Liz. Actually, you know, that was James – a very tiresome character.

M. I know, I know. It’s history. Go on, about the cloak?

W. Well, I saw Liz and then I saw the puddle. She had on a new pair of green leather shoes that morning. Very handsome they were – made in Spain, actually. She had pretty feet, Liz had, and she was proud of them, you know. Well, I saw this whacking great puddle, you see, and I said to myself, you must do something about this, Walter, I said, or there’ll be wigs on the green.

M. You were nervous, naturally, Walter.

W. I’ll say I was, Mike. My first instinct was to pick her up in my arms and carry her across – like a bride over the threshold of her new home.

M. A bit risky, wasn’t it, Walter?

W. I thought so, Mike. Mind you, she loved a bit of masterful he-man stuff. She’d have loved it. Liz was like that. But she’d have had to pretend she was angry, and well, nobody wants to have his head cut off to save a woman’s face, does he?

M. Naturally.

W. So I whipped off my cloak – it was my best, you know, and made of velvet, and I laid it down in the middle of the puddle, and she put her pretty green shoe on it and walked across dry-shod. And then she smiled at me – it was a wonderful smile, Mike. I hope you won’t think me conceited if I say it was a loving smile. Essex was furious.

M. I’m sure he was, Walter.

W. And then she said, ‘Give me your sword, Walter’, and I gave it to her. And then she said ‘Kneel down’, and I knelt down on my cloak. The water had begun to seep through by then, and I got my knees wet, and then she said: ‘Rise, Sir Walter!’ You should have seen their faces.

M. I don’t remember that art of the story.

W. I don’t suppose you do – I’ve just made it up.

M. snatching away the microphone  For goodness’ sake, don’t say things like that. Do you realise there are millions of people listening?

W. Millions? looking round. I don’t see them.

M. into mike  Well, ladies and gentlemen, you have been listening to that famous character Sir Walter Rally telling us the true story of Queen Elizabeth and the cloak. Thank you, Walter, for coming here this evening.

W. Thank you, Mike.

Sir Walter starts to go off and then comes back and takes the mike from M.

M. My cloak was ruined and so were my hose.

Sir Walter exits. Chorus enters.

M. His cloak and his hose were ruined. But what did Sir Walter do? Did he despair?

Chorus: No!

M. Did he weep?

Chorus: No!

M. Did he beat his breast?

Chorus: No!

M. No, no, listeners, a thousand times no! He sent his cloak and his hose to Purge, the Spotless, Stainless, Lily White Cleaners, and two days later they were returned to him.

Chorus: As good as new.

M. Spotless.

Chorus: Stainless.

M. Lily White Cleaners.

Chorus: Telephone number 8673.

M. Branches in all the provincial cities.

Chorus: If your clothes need cleaning, send them to Purge, the Spotless, Stainless, Lily White Cleaners.

Song and dance. Mike and Chorus. ‘Little Brown Jug’
[For those who don’t know the tune of ‘Little Brown Jug’ here it is on YouTube played by Glenn Miller at ]

Lily-white, clean and bright
Purge will quickly put it right.
Spot and blot, smear and stain,
Purge will make it clean again.

To see more of the Millais connections with Fairlynch Museum click on


No comments:

Post a Comment

Raleigh the entrepreneur: some of today’s Sir Walters have the final frontier in their sights

Above: Sir Walter Raleigh - Dreaming Beyond the Medieval ©   Ronnie Heeps A dozen years ago, the Scottish artist ...