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Saturday, 5 June, 1999, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Educating Archie star Brough dies
Brough in 1957, ahead of a world tour with dummy Archie Andrews
Radio star Peter Brough, who was known to millions in the 1950s for his BBC comedy series Educating Archie, has died.

The ventriloquist passed away after a short illness at his home in Northwood, Middlesex, aged 83.

At his peak, Mr Brough pulled in 15m listeners as the voice of Archie Andrews, the cheeky dummy, and had a fan club of 250,000 children.

Julie Andrews: Archie Andrews' girlfriend
Julie Andrews: Archie Andrews' girlfriend
A spokeswoman for BBC Radio said: "Peter Brough was a BBC star who brought pleasure to millions. He will be remembered with affection."

Springboard for stars

Mr Brough was born in London in 1916, into a family of ventriloquists. He gave his first concert at the age of 10 but at 16 went into the family textile business, later setting up an agency with his father.

In 1938 he gave up the day job to follow in the family tradition, touring the music halls with his dummy.

After being invalided out of the Army in 1942, he got into radio with spots on the BBC's Music Hall and Navy Mixture.

He was given his own series, Educating Archie, in 1950 after initially being rejected by the BBC for being too visual.

The show launched the career of comedian Tony Hancock
The show launched the career of comedian Tony Hancock
His long-running show was host to many up-and-coming stars. For a time, regular bit parts were played by Tony Hancock. Other helpers included Max Bygraves, Harry Secombe, Benny Hill, Beryl Reid and the 14-year-old Julie Andrews.

Immortalised at Tussaud's

The show was the most popular radio series of 1952, pulling in a phenomenal number of listeners.

When broadcast on a Thursday it would have 7.5m listeners, while 8.4m tuned in again on Sundays for the repeat. A further 3m would listen to another repeat on a Wednesday.

He once said: "People always said 'why a ventriloquist on the radio?' I always used to say 'why not?' Radio is all about painting pictures for the mind."

Archie was modelled for the London waxworks Madame Tussaud's, and was also the forerunner of the Teletubbies in terms of marketing opportunities. His name was attached to mugs, scarves, soaps, ties and sweets.

A 1,000 reward was offered for Archie's return in 1951 when he had been accidentally left on a train.

Royal fans

The show ran into the early 1960s, with Archie making occasional forays into television, and returned to radio for a 13-week series in 1966.

Archie Andrews: Forerunner to the Teletubbies?
Archie Andrews: Forerunner to the Teletubbies?
Archie was a regular visitor to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, where he was a great favourite of the Royal Family.

Mr Brough played at Royal Variety Performances and organised the Windsor Castle staff ball for many years.

He once recalled how after performing for King George VI and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, they asked for the dummy's head to be taken off while they had a good look at the controls.

The King said afterwards: "That's the only fellow I've ever beheaded in my reign."

Mr Brough officially retired from showbusiness in the 1960s and went on to run a textile business.

He second wife Elizabeth died in 1994, but he is survived by four children and six grandchildren.

His funeral will be a private family occasion but a memorial service is planned.

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