Ventriloquist Ray Alan first caught the show business 'bug' at the age of five, when he entered a talent show at his local Gaumont Cinema. By the time he was 13 he was working at the Lewisham Hippodrome Theatre, doing a short magic show between acts.
While still a teenager he developed a variety act, with magic, impressions and ventriloquism, the skill which later brought him fame. He toured worldwide, even working with Laurel and Hardy in 1954, after a fellow ventriloquist pulled out of the show.
English-born Stan Laurel was to become the visual inspiration for Lord Charles - Alan's puppet sidekick. The drunken nature of Charles was based on a man Alan had seen at a cabaret show. Charles made his stage debut at Wormwood Scrubs Prison for charity.
Alan became a popular ventriloquist and entertainer, performing and presenting television shows as well as touring theatres, for the next fifty years. He last appeared on stage in November 2008. A novelist too, he wrote three books during his career.
In 1974, Ray decided that the aristocratic and drunken Lord should 'age' realistically, to keep pace with his owner. The newer, older version of the puppet was unveiled at Hammer House in London's Wardour Street with the help of actress Julie Ege.
Alan's agent Peter Pritchard said: "Technically he was regarded as Britain's top ventriloquist. You couldn't see his mouth moving. He was tremendously well-liked in the business and he had been in the entertainment business all his life."
Old age had made it difficult to work the puppet and after his last performance in 2008, where he received a standing ovation, Alan took a break from show business. He passed away at his home in Reigate in the early hours of Monday 24 May 2010, aged 79.
What are these?