Bobby and Ginger with Laurel and Hardy


(Photo - Laurel & Hardy on the Stage of the Nottingham Empire, 13 January 1954 with Bobby Collins and Ginger.  Photo is provided courtesy of the Nottingham Post Group. Ginger had ginger-coloured hair and a characteristic red nose...I wonder if Stan recognised the resemblance?!?)




Reading “A.J” Marriot’s article “Whatever Happened to Bobby `n` Ginger?” in your wonderful Christmas issue inspired me to try and find Bobby, the ventriloquist. From other contemporary newspaper articles I discovered that his real name was Colin Swift. I resisted the Laurel and Hardy approach to finding someone by trying to contact every `Swift` in the phonebook. I thought that opening lines such as, “When you were at school did you have a big ginger dummy?”, may not have gone down too well and could have certainly invited  responses  similar to  those seen in Pack up your Troubles. Instead, I wrote an article for the Nottingham Evening Post, which they published along with a wonderful new photo of Bobby `n` Ginger, on stage with Laurel and Hardy (above).

Within 24 hours, Colin contacted me and shortly afterwards I interviewed him. Fifty years is a very long time but Colin told me that performing on stage with the Boys was an experience that he would never forget.  Although many of the finer details have been long forgotten, the impressions still remain. Before the Boys came to town he had appeared at the Empire in a heat of “Carol Levis’ Discoveries” – a 50s version of “Pop Idol”, but for variety acts. Shortly afterwards, Colin’s father wrote to Mr Laurel & Mr Hardy at the Empire, asking if his son could appear with them. Both comedians readily agreed, and Colin and his father were invited to the matinee show on Wednesday, 13th January 1954.

Colin and his father were sat on the front row just behind the conductor. It was a long wait. The conductor eventually gave Colin the cue to go up on stage – just before the finale! The Boys introduced him, gained a rousing reception from the audience, sat him down in a chair, and allowed him to perform his full act, from a fine script written by his father. At the end of the act, the audience applauded and the Boys congratulated him.

After the show, Colin and his father were led backstage to meet Stan and Ollie in their separate dressing rooms. He remembered that they spent several minutes chatting and joking with each of them as they took their make-up off. The ventriloquist recalled that he was so in awe at meeting these two giants from the silver screen that he could hardly utter any words let alone move his lips. In fact his father did most of the talking. Although he cannot remember the conversation he recalled that Stan was the more chatty of the two and he came away with the impression that they were both quite approachable, pleasant, friendly and gentle people. Another memento was their signatures in his autograph book.

Bobby `n` Ginger continued as an act for another eight years, on the working men’s club circuit, before Colin called it a day and found a job in farming. He has still got the ‘Ginger’ doll and occasionally performs with it at private parties. However, he will always look back at that special day at the Empire as being the highlight of his show business career.

Dave Tomlinson


Laurel and Hardy at the Empire Nottingham

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