• Tom Marshall

Next Train's Gone! Return to Buggleskelly - A Bench for Will Hay


Will Hay was a big name in British cinema, radio and theatre throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to his comedy films, he was an astronomer, polyglot and pilot, showing the ropes to a young Amy Johnson.

Graham Moffatt, Moore Marriott and Will Hay in 'Oh, Mr. Porter!'

The Will Hay Appreciation Society was founded in 2009 with the aim of keeping Will Hay’s legacy alive for future generations of fans. The society has held an annual ‘Will Hay Day’ event since 2014 and this year organisers Tom Marshall and Steve Godwin set out to mark 80 years since Hay’s most well known film ‘Oh, Mr. Porter!’ went on general release, credited by The Times as being "a comic masterpiece of British cinema.

E'steam'ed guest, railway enthusiast Pete Waterman

After months of fundraising, the society’s crowd-funded ‘Buggleskelly’ railway bench was unveiled on Sunday 14th October by famed railway enthusiast Pete Waterman OBE, at the film’s location in Cliddesden, Hampshire. The bench cost £2000 and was funded entirely by donations.

The Will Hay Appreciation Society's 'Buggleskelly' bench.

‘Oh, Mr. Porter!’ was filmed on the disused Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway which had closed to goods in 1936, and was being dismantled during the film’s production.

‘Oh, Mr. Porter!’ saw Will Hay as the incompetent stationmaster of Buggleskelly station, a run down Northern Irish railway halt, staffed by Albert the fat boy and Harbottle the toothless old man.

The bench plays tribute to Will Hay and his co-stars, Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt and the event was attended by members of the actors’ families including the granddaughters of Will Hay and Moore Marriott, and the children of Graham Moffatt.

Pete Waterman with Graham Moffatt's daughter Jayne Moffatt, & Will Hay's granddaughters Joy Wilcox & Virginia Perkins

Speaking at the event, Pete said “If you think back to when they made the films, I don’t think these guys would have realised what an impact they had, particularly 80 years on. As soon as I mentioned I was doing ‘Buggleskelly’, so many people instantly knew exactly what I was talking about.”

Will Hay's daughter Joy Wilcox, Pete Waterman, and Graham Moffatt's sons Richard and Chris Moffatt admire the bench.

“It wasn’t just Will, I think the three of them (Hay, Marriott and Moffatt) were absolutely brilliant. I first came across them at the Sunday afternoon films in the ‘50s; my Grandad was a big Will Hay fan. I still see things each time I watch them and I promise you I’ve seen ‘Oh, Mr. Porter!’ over 500 times because it is to me such a great, great film.

The society's 5th annual event was attended by over 180 society members and Cliddesden locals.

"When you see ‘Dad’s Army’ and all the things that came in the ‘60s, you just look at ‘Oh, Mr. Porter!’ and you see the influence. It isn’t comedy, it’s irony, it’s British irony at its best.”

The film's stars families, including Moore Marriott's granddaughters Elizabeth Gadd, who flew over from Australia to attend, and Georgina McDonough.

Pete continued, “The speed that they deliver the lines, the punches; you could never get away with the way they punch each other these days!"

"Can you imagine trying to get insurance standing on top of a train at 20 miles per hour today? Network Rail would have a heart attack.”

The fictional Southern Railway Northern Ireland (SRNI) is cast into the bench ends.

Co-organiser Steve Godwin made sure that event brought Hay-esque chaos to the small village of Cliddesden, with altered road signs and a string of Harbottle’s dirty washing hanging outside the Cliddesden Millennium Hall. ‘Oh, Mr. Porter’ and ‘Ask a Policeman’ were shown in the afternoon, model railways of Cliddesden were on display inside, the Basingstoke Silver Band played music from the films and steam vehicles and vintage aircraft flypast were on the cards, but were called off due to the bad weather.

Back: Symon & Dave Payne (Will Hay's great, great nephews) and Georgina McDonough (Moore Marriott's granddaughter)

Seated: (L to R) Joy Wilcox (Will Hay's granddaughter), Elizabeth Gadd (Moore Marriott's granddaughter), Jayne Moffatt (Graham Moffatt's daughter), Virginia Perkins (Will Hay's granddaughter), Richard & Chris Moffatt (Graham Moffatt's sons)

When the film was made there was a drought and many of the actors were suffering from the heat including a cow that was lent to the set by farmer Hooper, which sadly died. In order to film a scene set on a 'dark and rainy night' the local Basingstoke Fire Brigade were called in to provide 'rain'. They definietly weren't required this year.

This working model of Cliddesden station was on display, provided by ngaugelightrailway.blogspot.com

Members of Will Hay's family, including his grandaughters Virginia and Joy.

Society founder Tom Marshall said “We’re delighted with the turnout and it’s a pleasure to have the families of Will, Moore and Graham with us for the unveiling. I'm glad we've not all been 'wasting our time!'. Special thanks to Pete for being our guest of honour, and to everybody who donated to the appeal."

"We’re keeping the JustGiving page open to fund future memorials and to fund the restoration and ongoing upkeep of Will Hay’s grave.”

Before the bench was unveiled, Pete revealed a separate tribute to Gladstone, the locomotive star of 'Oh, Mr. Porter!'

“We’re not actually that disappointed that it rained all day. It wouldn’t be Will Hay Day without bad weather. At last year’s event in Birmingham we were snowed in.”

You can find out more about the Will Hay Appreciation Society and donate to the appeal at www.buggleskelly.co.uk

Join the Will Hay Appreciation Society here and follow our Facebook page here.

#WillHay #Railway #OhMrPorter #British #BritishComedy #Memorial #MooreMarriott #Buggleskelly #GrahamMoffatt #WillHayAppreciationSociety #PeteWaterman #Cliddesden #Basingstoke #Rails #SteamTrains #Gladstone #Comedy

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