by Norman Jacobs

WITH the passing of Roy Hudd, Clacton has lost a true friend.

Roy’s first major professional engagement was as a redcoat at Butlin’s in 1958. He then went on to star for two years in the Ocean Revue on Clacton Pier.

And, although he had made brief appearances on the radio before then, it was really from here that Roy’s career took off and he was signed up to star in television’s The Illustrated Weekly Hudd and The Roy Hudd Show.

He went on to appear in straight plays, films, musicals, variety and television in such shows as Coronation Street, Call the Midwife and Casualty. You name it, Roy did it.

He was also a walking encyclopaedia of Music Hall knowledge and was the long standing President of the British Music Hall Society.

But throughout all this national acclaim, he remained a good friend to Clacton.

As he told me several times, he was always very grateful to Clacton and happy to do what he could to support the town as he always gave it credit for starting him off on his career.

I first got to know Roy back in 1992 when I wrote to ask him if he would kindly write an article for the Clacton and District Local History Society's journal, the Clacton Chronicle, about his time as a redcoat.

Roy had no hesitation in responding and sent in a highly amusing article about those days.

He came to the West Cliff shortly afterwards to star in his own show and this was where I first met him. I thought then what a wonderful man he was.

He was so friendly and we chatted for some time in the bar, though it was a bit difficult as people kept coming up to him all the time wanting to speak to him, ask for his autograph or a photo with them, etc. He never seemed to tire of this and was very happy to chat to everyone.

In July 2007, we helped to organise a "Day at Butin's" event on the greensward along with Essex County Council. Roy offered his services free of charge to open the event.

Not only did he open it, but he stayed all day, once again chatting away to all and sundry.

Later on, in 2007 and again in 2013, the Local History Society mounted exhibitions about Butlin’s and both times Roy came down to open them. We offered, but he absolutely refused to accept a fee.

In 2009, because he had been such a good supporter, the West Cliff Theatre asked him if he would like to become the theatre's first patron.

He said he would be delighted and felt it a great honour. Though I think the honour was all ours at the West Cliff.

He then threw himself into supporting the theatre, by appearing in shows there and donating most (if not all) of his fee back.

He also took the opportunity to publicise the West Cliff whenever and wherever he could. And when he did appear he always took the time and trouble to thank all the staff personally.

His last appearance in Clacton was at the West Cliff's 125 Show last year - a show held to celebrate the Theatre's 125th anniversary.

We wanted to headline him as star of the show, but he wouldn't have it and asked that everyone be given equal billing.

Roy has been a wonderful friend to Clacton and we will miss him greatly.

Such a nice man, such a great star and such a huge loss.

n Roy Hudd passed away peacefully with his wife Debbie at his side on Sunday, March 15 following a short illness.