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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 January, 2005, 13:53 GMT
Obituary: Cyril Fletcher
Cyril Fletcher
Cyril Fletcher had a gentle talent to amuse

Cyril Fletcher, who has died aged 91, delivered odd odes in strangulated Cockney tones and was a surprising hit with television and radio audiences in a broadcasting career spanning more than sixty years.

With his distinctive nasal twang and his contagious bonhomie Cyril Fletcher was one of Britain's most popular comedians.

He appeared in many radio series, and more recently on BBC Television in That's Life, the long-running consumer programme presented by Esther Rantzen.

As well as delivering his distinctive ditties, Cyril Fletcher was also, in his time, a cabaret artist, gardening expert and proud countryman.

TV favourite

Born in Watford just before World War I, the young Fletcher first worked as an insurance clerk.

He began reciting his poems - always in an exaggeratedly nasal voice - as after-dinner entertainment. He then graduated to a concert party in Hastings.

Cyril Fletcher appearing on What's My Line in the 1950s
Fletcher appeared on What's My Line in the 1950s
Cyril Fletcher first broadcast on radio in 1936 and was one of the comic brains on Does the Team Think?

Fletcher staged and starred in many pantomimes with his wife, actress and singer Betty Astell.

On television, he joined the team of That's Life on which, sat elegantly next to a pot plant, he would recite his stock-in-trade odes.

He went on to become a series favourite, reading out amusing misprints and notices sent in by viewers.

Long after he had left the programme, Esther Rantzen disguised herself as an Italian beekeeper to surprise her former colleague on his 80th birthday in 1993.

'An odd ode-r'

Although his roots were in music hall, Fletcher was an active Christian who did not approve of sex or dirt in a show - "only good, honest vulgarity".

Disguised as a beekeeper, Esther Rantzen surprises Cyril Fletcher
He was surprised by Esther Rantzen, disguised as a beekeeper
He was happiest in his garden and wrote books on the subject. In 1983, he had a rose named after him at the Chelsea Flower Show.

He chose one recognisable by its strange smell, or, as he put it, one "odd ode-r choosing another".

This versatile communicator was an unashamed sentimentalist who gloried in his long marriage and idyllic country life.

Cyril Fletcher's comedy was never at the expense of others. With his determinedly gentle talent to amuse, he remained a broadcasting favourite and a distinctive voice of British comedy.

Veteran comic Cyril Fletcher dies
02 Jan 05 |  Entertainment


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