• Tom Marshall

A Blue Plaque for Graham Moffatt - 'Britain's Favourite Fat Boy'

Graham Moffatt was loved throughout Britain in the 1930s and 1940s as ‘Britain’s Favourite Fat Boy’, star of such comedy classics as ‘Oh, Mr. Porter!’ and ‘Ask a Policeman’. His most popular character was ‘Albert’ a role he would come to be well loved for, alongside Moore Marriott as the ‘toothless old man’ Jerry Harbottle.

Graham Moffatt and Moore Marriott in 'Ask a Policeman' (1939)

Graham starred alongside the greats including Will Hay and Arthur Askey in some of the most popular comedy films of the 20th century, but has sadly not enjoyed the same recognition in modern times as some of his contemporaries.

The Will Hay Appreciation Society has been trying to put this right by fundraising for various memorial projects to Will Hay and his co-stars. From humble beginnings 10 years ago, the society now boasts almost 4500 members, and has sparked a resurgence of interest in the films of Will and the boys.

Last year the society unveiled a memorial bench to Will Hay, Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt, and this year was time to focus on the fat boy himself.

Graham Moffatt, Moore Marriott and Will Hay in 'Oh, Mr. Porter!' (1937)

Graham’s film career was relatively short, lasting around 10 years before he semi retired in the late 1940s to become a publican. He appeared in a handful of films until his early death at the age of 45 in 1965.

He was the landlord of The Swan at Braybrooke, Northamptonshire from 1948-1958, and on Sunday 18th August 2019 a memorial plaque was unveiled by the Will Hay Appreciation Society at the pub to celebrate his life and work, in what would have been Graham's 100th year.

Film historian Graham Rinaldi addresses the crowd of onlookers at the Swan, Braybrooke.

The event was attended by over 100 members of the society and local villagers, who enjoyed a hog roast which was kindly laid on by Cerys and Tremain at the Swan, a pub quiz, a stall and a selection of Graham’s films. The crowd were entertained by John Hewer and Jerry Smith from Hambledon Productions, who oversaw proceedings by recreating the double act of Albert and Harbottle perfectly.

When it came to the pub quiz, the guests were in the capable hands of the Schoolmaster and Lady Gainsborough (Stuart and Heather Markham).

Harbottle and Albert entertain the crowd.

The Will Hay Appreciation Society's stall.

The Schoolmaster and Lady Gainsborough inside the pub.

The fans gathered outside as Graham’s children Richard, Jayne and Chris Moffatt arrived at the pub in a pink Vauxhall cresta, in tribute to Graham’s friend Jim Dale, singer and star of the ‘Carry On’ films, who would frequent the pub in his own Vauxhall Cresta during the 1950s. Dale lived in Rothwell at the time, just down the road from Braybrooke. The broadcaster Richard Dimbleby was another frequent celebrity visitor to Braybrooke in the 1950s.

Graham Moffatt's children arrive in a Vauxhall Cresta, similar to that owned by Jim Dale.

The highlight of the day was when the Moffatts unveiled a blue plaque to their father on the wall of the pub. Graham’s children were aware of the event taking place, but had no idea that the society had arranged for a plaque to be unveiled in memory of their father.

Graham Moffatt's children Chris, Jayne and Richard.

British film historian, and Will Hay’s biographer, Graham Rinaldi said, “Seeing the name Graham Moffatt on a cast list of British comedy films always put a smile on my face, because he was one of those British comedy actors like Joyce Grenfell, Richard Watiss, or Irene Handel.”

“When you see their name on a cast list you know that even when the film is uneven, you will always get a great performance from those particular actors. For me that’s Graham Moffatt in British films. You’re always in a safe pair of hands with Graham Moffatt.”

Before the plaque was unveiled, Graham Moffatt’s children Richard, Jayne and Chris all said a few words about their father and fond memories of growing up in the village.

A This is Your Life moment happened just by chance as Richard recalled his friendship with local school friend Clive Underwood at the very moment he walked around the corner into the pub car park! The pair had a good catch up after more than 60 years apart.

The Moffatts with event organisers Steve Godwin, Tom Marshall and Karen Godwin.

Co-organiser Steve Godwin made sure to add some of the society’s usual madness to the event, including arranging a moment when the Vauxhall Cresta was flagged down a couple of miles outside Braybrooke by Harbottle and Albert, much to the surprise of the Moffatts!

The Moffatt family.

The stars of the show!

Founder of the Will Hay Appreciation Society, Tom Marshall said, “We were delighted with the turnout, and that so many people were willing to give up their Sunday afternoon to honour Graham in this way. I hope that fans will come and have their photo taken with the plaque, and pop into the Swan for a pint to toast the great man too.”

If you would like to find out more about Graham’s life and career, the society made this short film about his life:

The Will Hay Appreciation Society’s next event will be their 6th annual ‘Hay Day’ in Nottingham on 8th December 2019. You can book tickets and join the Will Hay Appreciation Society here.

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