Humphrey Lestocq and Mr Turnip on Whirligig

The early days of television and on alternate Saturday evenings between 5 pm and 6 pm, we had Whirligig – then on the other Saturday was ‘Saturday Special’ which featured Peter Butterworth with the puppet Porterhouse or Porty as we knew him - the Parrot.

On Whirligig we had the Actor Humphrey Lestocq – referred to as H.L. – and Mr. Turnip – pictured here BELOW :-

H.L. and Mr Turnip

Humphrey Lestocq, I remember as an actor had played in Angels One Five 1952 an RAF wartime film – and a very good one at that. He did’t have a leading role but he appeared well up the cast list and gave a credit worthy performance.

Angels One Five 1952

Once a Sinner 1950

Above: Angels One Five – which I know well and Once a Sinner – which I don’t know at all

He had been, in fact, a Fighter Pilot during  the War

For many years, Humphrey and his wife Mary, and family lived at Rye Harbour in Sussex

Humphrey and Mary Lestocq

Mary and Humphrey Lestocq

When Mary died, she left in her will a donation to the RNLI in memory of her late husband, Humphrey Lestocq.

He was an actor in the early days of television and was one of the presenters of the TV series Whirligig, the first children’s programme to be broadcast live from the BBC’s Lime Grove Studios. Mary was a stage manager for many shows in London, including ‘Look Back in Anger’ but during the Actors’ strike in 1963 she became so disenchanted with her trade that she decided to take an entirely new career path.

The couple moved to Rye and set up a business called ‘Mary and I’ and later Mary set up a photographic business which flourished, as she was very talented. Sheila Caister, who was Mary’s photographic assistant, recalls: ’ Mary was lovely to work for and had a sharp wit which often had us both in stitches. Her work was innovative. She photographed many local people and one of the funniest was when Spike Milligan asked me to hold a gun to his head. She was so much fun to work with and is sorely missed.’

They had a house built in the Harbour and during the time that they lived there they made many friends. Mary and ‘Humph’, as he was known to his friends, made frequent trips to the ‘Conk’, the local hostelry the real name of which is William the Conqueror, which was conveniently right next door. This is where the friendly couple got to know the crew-members of the Rye Harbour RNLI and a bond was forged. Humph became Hon. Secretary for many years.

When Mary was a youngster she spent many holidays in the East Neuk of Fife. With its many attractions and coastal harbours it is easy to see what drew her back so many times as an adult. It became her favourite part of Scotland: indeed, Humph’s and Mary’s boat, which they moored in Rye Harbour, was built at the shipyard of St. Monan’s.

It was no surprise that Mary’s ashes were cast on the sea in her favourite part of the world. Michael Gilbert, Mary’s step-son, presented the donation cheque to Ansthruther Coxswain Michael Bruce and Treasurer David Thomson who accepted it on behalf of the RNLI.

posted by Movieman in Uncategorized and have Comments (4)

4 Responses to “Humphrey Lestocq and Mr Turnip on Whirligig”

  1. Philip Moore says:

    Dear Movieman,

    It was good to read your recent posting on Humphrey & Mary Lestocq and their life at Rye Harbour. It was especially good to read as I have lived in the home that they built at Rye Harbour for the last 12 years.

    By coincidence Talking Pictures again showed, “The Quiet Woman” (1951), last evening. Much of it was shot around Rye Harbour, but some years before the Lestocq’s were here.

    Just along from Humph & Mary’s home is a small listed cottage, Harbour Lights, where, from about 1949 to 1953 a then struggling actor lived – Patrick Macnee – you may have heard of him!

    In the same year that The Quiet Woman was filmed another crew were down here to film, “Green Grows The Rushes”. It used similar scenes around Rye Harbour. I’d like to think that Patrick Macnee was gazing at the actors involved, not realising that one of them, Honor Blackman, would quite soon become his partner in The Avengers, T.V. Series. The film was also significant for another star, Richard Burton, as it was his last role before moving to America to further his career. “Dad’s Army” actor, Arnold Ridley, also features, as Honor Blackman’s father.

    Humph died in 1984, at the age of 65, after living in the house he built in Rye Harbour for 10 years. Mary died in 2017.

    • Movieman says:

      Philip,

      What a marvellous message you have sent here. Incredible that one of my Posts should be read by someone like yourself who is so connected with the recent item on the Blog about Humphrey Lestocq and his wife Mary – and that you live in their house.
      I did know about Green Grow The Rushes – and in fact I did an article on that film with a great shot I found of a studio set of a boat in the harbour. I seem to remember that Roger Livesey was also in the film. I think you have also mentioned to me before about The Quiet Woman. Also I am pretty sure that another quite big film done there in part was the 1958 film Dunkirk with a great many extras around. Also Carry on Follow That Camel I think was partly filmed there. Very much appreciate your comments here. Thanks again, Neil

      • Philip Moore says:

        Neil, Many thanks for your kind comments.

        Here’s a list of films that have featured scenes from around here. I don’t pretend that it’s complete! The Googie Withers film was shot around New Romney – A few miles away.

        The Quiet Woman 1951. Features lots of Rye Harbour – Including a short sequence right at the start with Johnny Doughty, (The Harbour ferry man & a well known local folk singer). A good film.

        Green Grow The Rushes 1951. Honor Blackman, Richard Burton, Arnold Ridley. A few scenes of Rye Harbour and many of New Romney.

        The Loves of Joanna Godden. 1947. Starred Googie Withers. Set in late 19th C. much of it shot in New Romney.

        Wings Of Danger. 1952. Zachary Scott. This is not set in Rye Harbour but does feature scenes shot around the Martello Tower in Rye Harbour.

        The Dark Man 1951. With scenes around Hastings and Camber – & Dungeness?

        Is Anybody There? 2008. Michael Caine. Some scenes on the Nature Reserve.

        Richard III. 1995 – Ian Mckellen. With scenes on the Nature Reserve

        The 1958 film, Dunkirk, was shot with Camber Sands acting as the beach at Dunkirk. Camber Sands is just across the river (Rother) from Rye Harbour. Likewise Phil Silvers & Kenneth Williams in the Carry On film was also shot on Camber Sands.

        • Movieman says:

          Thank You Philip. Most interesting and informative. I will have a look back at some of these.
          Also Mapp and Lucia the TV series was filmed in Rye I think – certainly the last adaptation a year or two ago.
          My family and I have visited Rye and Rye Harbour quite a few times over the years. Neil

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