May 19 1914 to November 19 1966

by PETER TATCHELL (copyright 2010)

For a brief ten years he was one of the top comedians on British television with scripts by Johnny Speight and a weekly programme seen by millions. In 1961 the Variety Club voted him the ITV Personality of the Year and he appeared in two Royal Variety Performances. But his shows are seldom repeated and it would take until 2011 before they finally reached the home video market via dvd. For nearly five decades Arthur Haynes was the forgotten man of British comedy.

Arthur was born in the London suburb of Fulham in 1914, the only child of a baker. Early aspirations to be an architect were thwarted by the substantial fees needed so he left school at 14 and moved through a succession of jobs as office boy, bus conductor, clerk and (according to the 1960 ATV Television Star Book) “after that I was a mate – I was everybody’s mate … plumber’s mate, painter’s mate, carpenter’s mate and so on”.

Early attempts at being a part time comic in local pubs and clubs didn’t amount to much but when war broke out Haynes was given a chance in the famous Stars in Battle Dress unit by theatre impresario George Black. Eventually teaming with Charlie Chester in troop shows, Arthur was finally on his way in the world of show business. When Chester took over the army editions of the BBC’s popular Merry-Go-Round radio show in late 1945, Arthur Haynes was part of his team. Six months later, the format evolved into a weekly half hour called Stand Easy which ran for four years and nearly a hundred broadcasts. There was also a one-off television adaptation in early 1949.

After that, Arthur went out on his own appearing on variety stages around the country but with only modest success. In 1955 he was back with Chester for a handful of BBC broadcasts and when commercial television began later that year the newly formed ATV signed him to appear as a regular in their upcoming variety series Strike a New Note (which premiered on February 21 1956). Arthur’s success in the programme (and its successor Get Happy) led to a series of his own in January 1957.

Initially airing fortnightly on Wednesday nights, The Arthur Haynes Show was a half hour mix of sketches and musical items with ex-Much Binding alumnus Nicholas Parsons playing straight man to Arthur’s gallery of characterizations. The pair worked well in routines that emphasized the class divide with a gullible and toffy-nosed Parsons inevitably falling victim to the schemes of the scruffy reprobate Haynes.

A major contribution to the programme was the creativity of one of its writers … a stuttering East-Ender who’d recently “gone pro” and joined the stable of talent at the Sykes/Milligan co-operative Associated London Scripts. His name was Johnny Speight and for the next ten years his input would play a large part in the enormous success Haynes would enjoy in the medium.

A favourite early character who fans loved to hate each week was the mischievous Oscar Pennyfeather, a serial recalcitrant whose activities would be seen without dialogue, the viewers hearing Parsons off-screen as the voice of his none-too-honourable conscience. So popular was he that Haynes chose the letters OP1 as the licence plate of his car, but by 1960 he abandoned the part because it was overshadowing his other roles.

Arthur’s most famous alter-ego, however, was a belligerent tramp (christened Hobo Haynes in the scripts) with a row of medals adorning his weather-beaten greatcoat and ever-eager to mention his courageous wartime exploits: “there I was, up to me neck in muck and bullets fighting for me country”.

There was also a working class family whose meal-table bickering was the forerunner of Speight’s most famous creation of a few years later … the Garnetts of Till Death Us Do Part. At times, Arthur himself found himself becoming uneasy at the direction the dialogue he was taking, as Speight was delving deeper into a part that would eventually evolve into Alf.

By the start of the sixties Arthur had established himself as commercial television’s top comedy performer, being named the ITV Personality of the Year by the Variety Club in 1961 and chosen to take part in that year’s Royal Variety Performance (he would also appear in the 1965 show).

In 1962 BBC radio arranged for Haynes and Parsons to perform ten of Johnny Speight’s television scripts in the popular Sunday night series London Laughs and, soon after, a one-off programme called Arthur Again acted as a pilot for a weekly series, which ran for four seasons on the Light Programme (using Speight material for the first two).

Meanwhile the television series enjoyed continued success, with telerecordings being screened by networks like the A.B.C. in Australia and the BBC’s Transcription Service releasing a package of episodes from the radio version for overseas listeners.

In late 1962 Dermot Kelly joined the team to act as a none-too-bright confederate for Hobo Haynes in what proved to be an inspired piece of casting and in 1965 the ubiquitous Patricia Hayes (second only to June Whitfield in working with just about every major British comedy name of the era) also became a regular in the series.

Then, after eight years and a dozen seasons together, Arthur decided that he should part company with long time foil Nicholas Parsons. Parsons was disappointed at the split, but soon went on to appear as straight man for Benny Hill and host of BBC Radio’s long-running game show Just a Minute. In his place came established variety performer Tony Fayne (who’d filled in when Parsons was unavailable a couple of years earlier).

Arthur’s popularity on television and radio led to his headlining the London Palladium revue Swing Along in 1963 (where the highlight would be his burlesquing of a wounded soldier singing Goodbye from The White Horse Inn). By the middle of the decade he was also being sought after by movie producers, with a role in the Rock Hudson farce Strange Bedfellows followed by a scene-stealing performance as a know-it-all hospital patient in Doctor in Clover.

While his ATV television series had paved the way for a similar venture by Morecambe and Wise in the early sixties, their later success on The Ed Sullivan Show in the U.S. led to Arthur also being invited to try his luck with an American audience. In April 1965 he made the first of several trans-Atlantic trips to appear on the programme and follow up visits bode well for a successful career there.

But it was not to be. Tragically, a fortnight after returning home from his seventh appearance on the show Arthur Haynes suffered a massive heart attack and died. He was only 52 years old and ITV’s most popular funnyman was gone.

His legacy is the hundred half-hour telerecordings that are in urgent need of reappraisal by a new generation of comedy fans.


BBC Light Programme Fridays 8-00pm (60 min)
September 14, October 5, October 26, November 16, December 7 and December 28 1945
and January 18 and February 8 1946
with Charlie Chester, Arthur Haynes, Ken Morris (and Will Hay as quizmaster of the Double Or Quits segments)
editions of September 14 and December 7 survive

Series 1: BBC Light Programme Monday 7-15pm (later 9-15pm) February 11 1946 to February 17 1947
*** CHARLIE CHESTER’S CHRISTMAS PARTY: BBC Light Programme Thursday 7-15pm December 26 1946
*** SONGS FROM STAND EASY: BBC Light Programme Monday 10-15pm April 7 1947 (20 min)
*** special: BBC Light Programme Monday 9-30pm August 4 1947
*** JUBILEE EDITION: BBC Light Programme Monday 7-30pm November 10 1947
Series 2: BBC Light Programme Monday 9-30pm December 22 1947 to March 8 1948
and Sunday 9-30pm March 14 to May 16 1948
Series 3: BBC Light Programme Monday 9-30pm June 21 to September 13 1948
Series 4: BBC Light Programme Monday 9-30pm January 3 to April 4 1949
with Charlie Chester, Arthur Haynes, Ken Morris
edition of September 13 1948 survives

BBC Home Service Monday 8-00pm May 17 1948
with Kenneth Horne & Richard Murdoch, Jewel & Warriss, Harold Berens, Charlie Chester & Arthur Haynes  

BBC Home Service Tuesday 5-00pm August 30 1949 (55 min) (* in CHILDREN’S HOUR)
with Charlie Chester, Arthur Haynes, Jewel & Warriss, Julie Andrews, Frankie Howerd, Norman Wisdom 

BBC Home Service Monday 8-00pm December 26 1949 (60 min)
with Jimmy Edwards, Vera Lynn, Harold Berens, Arthur Haynes, Brian Reece 

BBC Home Service Tuesday 7-00pm January 25, February 22, April 5 and May 3 1955
with Charlie Chester, Arthur Haynes, Len Marten, Ken Morris 

*** LONDON LIGHTS: BBC Light Programme Sunday 6-30pm April 1 to June 3 1962
featured Arthur Haynes and Nicholas Parsons (with Johnny Speight scripts originally performed on television)
*** ARTHUR AGAIN: BBC Light Programme Monday 9-00pm June 18 1962
with Arthur Haynes, Nicholas Parsons, Quartetto Italiano
(script: Johnny Speight)
Series 1: BBC Light Programme Monday 9-00pm October 22 1962 to January 14 1963
with Nicholas Parsons, The Temperance Seven
(script: Johnny Speight)
Series 2: BBC Light Programme Sunday 2-00pm June 23 to September 15 and Wednesday December 25 1963
with Nicholas Parsons, Graham Stark, Leslie Noyes
(script: Johnny Speight)
Series 3: BBC Light Programme Tuesday 8-00pm April 28 to July 21 1964
with Nicholas Parsons, Graham Stark, Patricia Hayes, Leslie Noyes
(script: George Evans & Derek Collyer, Alastair Foot and Eric Davidson)
Series 4: BBC Light Programme Thursday 8-00pm July 15 to October 7 1965
with Tony Fayne, Warren Mitchell, Patricia Hayes, Leslie Noyes
(script: Allan Scott and Chris Bryant)
edition of December 3 1962 (1/7) survives, as do most of series 1 and 2/1 (with collectors)
TS offered a short season of the Speight-scripted episodes.


BBC-TV January 12 1949 (45 min)

Series 1: ATV Wednesdays 9-30pm fortnightly January 2 to June 5 1957 (12 shows)
Series 2: ATV Wednesdays 10-00pm fortnightly September 18 to December 11 1957 (7)
Specials: ATV Fridays 10-15pm December 12 and 19 1958
Series 3: ATV Fridays 10-15pm March 6 to June 19 1959 (16)
Series 4: ATV Mondays 8-00pm September 14 to October 19 1959 (6)
Series 5: ATV Mondays 8-00pm March 21 to April 25, June 13 and 20 1960 (8)
Series 6: ATV Thursdays 8-00pm September 15 to December 29 1960 (16)
Special: Arthur Entertains ATV Saturday 11-00pm February 18 1961 (10 min)
Special: ATV Saturday 7-40pm March 16 1961 (50 min)
Series 7: ATV Thursday 8-00pm March 30 to May 4 1961 (6)
Series 8: ATV Saturdays 9-30pm fortnightly September 16 to November 25 1961 (6)
Series 9: ATV Saturday 7-30pm January 27 to May 19 1962 (17)
Series 10: ATV Saturday 8-25pm December 8 1962 to April 27 1963 (21)
Series 11: ATV Saturday 8-25pm January 4 to March 28 1964 (13)
Series 12: ATV Saturday 8-25pm October 10 1964 to January 2 1965 (13)
Series 13: ATV Saturday 8-25pm November 20 1965 to January 15 1966 (9)
Series 14: ATV Saturday 8-35pm March 26 to April 30 1966 (6)
with Nicholas Parsons (series 1 to 8, 10 to 12), Tony Fayne (series 9, 13 and 14), Ken Morris (series 1 to 2, 5, 6, 8 and 9), Freddie Frinton (series 5), Leslie Noyes (series 5 to 14), Dermot Kelly (series 10 to 14), Patricia Hayes (series 12 to 14)

*** telerecordings were made (apparently from 6/4 onwards) and these were screened in Australia by the A.B.C. 


Arthur appeared on the following editions:
April 4 1965
June 20 1965
March 6 1966
March 27 1966
April 3 1966
October 30 1966
November 6 1966

C4 November 3 1995 (60 minute tribute)

BBC4 March 1 2011 (60 minute tribute)
Nicholas Parsons reminisces with Paul Merton


Strange Bedfellows (1965)

Doctor in Clover (aka Carnaby MD) (1966)

Fahrenheit 451 (1966) unbilled cameo


Not to Worry / Looking Around
HMV 45rpm 45 POP 987



Network 2-disc set 7953363 (2011)
features the 13 surviving editions from series 6: October 6 1960 to January 5 1961

Network 2-disc set 7953442 (2011)
features all of series 7 (6 episodes): March 30 to May 4 1961
and all of series 8 (6 episodes): September 30 to
November 25 1961

Network 3-disc set 7953728 (2012)
features all of series 9 (17 episodes): February 13 to June 27 1962 (* airdates given are possibly for outside London)

Network 3-disc set 7953 (2012)
features all series 10 (21 episodes): December 8 1962 to April 27 1963

Network 2-disc set 7953775 (2012)
features all series 11 (13 episodes): January 4 to March 28 1964

Network 2-disc set 7953811 (2012)
features 11 episodes from series 12 (missing episodes 3 and 8): October 10 1964 to January 2 1965 

Network 3-disc set 7953822 (2013)
features all 9 episodes from series 13: November 20 1965 to January 15 1966
and 5 episodes from series 14 (missing episode 4): March 26 to April 30 1966




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