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 (6)

6 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.

  2. Philip watts says:

    Hank has just been sold by Pelham puppets on bbc2

    • Movieman says:

      Philip, Thanks for the email – I didn’t know of this but well remember Hank and his colleague Francis Coudrill on Whirligig. Wonderful memories of the very early days of TV. It seemed better then. Neil

  3. Bill Evans says:

    The days when television was a magical land! I’m writing a book about memories of children’s television and enjoying Mr Pastry, Muffin, Billy Bunter and loads more. Any memories gratefully received.

    • Movieman says:

      Bill. Thanks for your comments. Indeed you sum it up perfectly ‘a magical land’ when we were all young and TV was so new to us all. The programmes were varied and entertaining for us then. Lovely days. I will email you with anything I can come up with – and Good Luck with the book which sounds good and a ‘must read’ for me certainly. Thanks again, Neil

    • Christopher Thompson says:

      Hi Bill,

      I have early memories of TV as I watched the Queen’s wedding in 1947.

      My father bought a TV in 1948 and I remember the 1948 Olympics. I also remember watching all the early children’s programmes.

      I was born in 1940 so if you are still working on your book I may be able to help you.

      Chris Thompson

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