Here at IBY we received the sad news that Ward Allan, Magician, Balloon Entertainer and first and Foremost, ventriloquist has died.
I had the pleasure of doing over six pantomimes with Ward and his mischievous pal, Roger The Dog. Ward appeared in Paul Elliott pantomimes from the early 1980’s and continued to entertain children for Qdos. My first pantomime with Ward was the 1985 Bournemouth Pavilion “Cinderella” and the following years at Richmond, Aberdeen and Hull New Theatre.
Ward and Roger played Brokers Men or Baron and his Dog and performed two speciality acts in each show. No matter who topped the bill, Ward was essential in the panto as he appealed directly and to great acclaim to young children. Roger was adored by children- he was naughty, he was rebellious and above all he was supremely silly!
Ward remained stoic to his naughty behaviour and often appalled at his tricks. The routine he did with a balloon was masterful. In the world of speshes, it ranked with Bob Carolgees performing “Old Shep”, and Cuddles the Monkey discovering he has a tail!
Roger was entrusted with an inflated balloon by Ward. All he had to do was hold it in his mouth. in fact, as Ward was distracted Roger struggled to keep hold, levitated and repeated his attempt at flight until the audience was exhausted – It was a man raising his arm- that is all, but if that arm belonged to a top notch expert in comedy timing, it became the highlight of the show.
Ward learned his trade in working men’s clubs and in Summer seasons up and down the country. seasons with Ken Dodd and top comics of the day led to television appearances- from “It’s Cliff and Friends” in 1975, through Search For A Star in 1979, Krankies Klub in 1982 to BBC’s The Roger the Dog Show in the early ’80’s Ward became a leading name in the ventriloquist circuit.
I did additional pantomimes with him at Sheffield Lyceum and at Darlington in 2000 among others, and I can remember getting on a train at Wimbledon or Richmond and the entire carriage of panto children with shouting ” Superdog- wheeeee!” And Ward’s other catchphrase ” What has he got? he’s got a balloon!” children adored Ward and Roger.
Ward lived in his native County Durham in Littletown, and had made his professional debut at the City Varieties in Leeds at the age of 16. He remained a constant working professional entertainer for forty seven years.
Ward worked in panto for Paul Elliott, for Jon Conway and Nick Thomas, and when Michael Harrison began his early producing career in Newcastle, it was Ward Allan who headlined his first show. A very proud family man, he was always delighted to introduce us all to his family – Mary his wife and his children Helen, Sue and David. It was Mary who created and hand crafted Roger. Every dressing room Ward occupied had a seat for Roger- I would pass the door on the way to the stage and see him sitting there on his own. Until he talked! ward delighted in staying out of sight to catch you unawares with his “Ventickleyourbits”!
In recent times Ward lectured and held workshops on ventriloquism, and held circus workshops in Blackpool- you were invited to bring along a sock, or a glove and see how, under his guidance, it could come alive – just like Roger did every show.
A pleasure and a joy to work with you Ward- our sincere condolences to his Family and his many friends in the world of variety and pantomime.