Hello Me Old Flower: In Search Of Charlie Williams
Poet Ian McMillan sets out on a personal quest to find out more about the late professional footballer turned TV comedy star Charlie Williams
- BBC Radio 4
- Ian McMillan, Tony Bluff, Janice Williams, Dotun Adebayo, Neil Crossland and Charlie Williams
- Ian McMillan
- Kellie While
Ian McMillan sets out on a personal quest to find out more about the late professional footballer turned TV comedy star Charlie Williams, who rose to fame in the early '70s with appearances on The Comedians and The Golden Shot, delivering his trademark 'me old flower' in his broad Yorkshire accent.
At 14, Charlie went down the pits. He also excelled at football, playing for the Upton Colliery team, and this led to a successful career as a professional footballer in the 1950s when he made 151 appearances for Doncaster Rovers and was one of the first black players in the country.
After retiring from the game, he turned his hand to singing in the local working men's clubs. He soon realised his banter between songs was going down much better than his singing and a new career in comedy was born. He made his TV debut in 1971, starring in The Comedians alongside Bernard Manning and Frank Carson, and had a six-month residence at the London Palladium.
Ian talks to Doncaster Rovers historian Tony Bluff to find out why the fans voted Charlie 'all-time club cult hero' in a 2004 Football Focus poll. He visits his widow Janice and learns about the day he received his MBE from Prince Charles. There are also interviews with writer and broadcaster Dotun Adebayo, who wrote and starred in a play based on Charlie, and from Charlie's best friend and one-time agent Neil Crossland.
Ian finds that the combination of a black man with a broad Yorkshire accent and first-hand experience of working class life made Charlie unique. Some say his gags reinforced racial stereotypes of the time, but nevertheless he was a pioneer and role model for a new generation of British black comedians.