Benny Hill

First published in Hampshire Heritage

FAMED for his saucy brand of seaside humour, Benny Hill was a comedy icon for a generation of British television fans.

The madcap funny man had viewers in stitches throughout the 60s and 70s with his shows featuring a bevy of scantily clad beauties.

With programmes still repeated in dozens of countries across the world and famous fans as diverse as Conservative party leader David Cameron and controversial US rapper Snoop Dogg, he is undoubtedly Southampton's most famous comic son.

Born Alfred Hawthorn Hill, he began his working life in Eastleigh, a town he knew well in his early days.

He worked at Woolworths in Leigh Road and, famously, as a milkman at Hanns Dairy in Factory Road, now Wells Place.

His exploits on his horse-drawn milk float gave him material for his hit record, Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) - which reached number one in 1971 and mentioned the town centre's Market Street.

Attracted to the stage from an early age, Hill, who never married, watched many shows at Southampton's two variety theatres.

After serving in the Army during the Second World War, he performed on the stage himself before appearing in a number of films.

But it was in television that Hill made his name, starting with his own BBC show in 1955, before moving over to Thames Television where The Benny Hill Show was a ratings winner.

Every programme finished with an extended, speeded-up sequence - set to unforgettable music - where he was chased by the buxom Hill's Angels'.

His career never reached the same heights after he was sacked in 1989 by a new head of light entertainment at Thames.

Compared with the new breed of comics, Hill's unchanged techniques were seen as old fashioned.

His connections with Southampton always remained strong and he kept his mother's three-bedroom semi in Westrow Road, Southampton, until he died after suffering a severe heart attack.

He is buried along with his mother and father at Hollybrook Cemetery with one simple word on his headstone - Reunited'.

A campaign is currently underway to get a statue of the comedian erected in Southampton.

Name: Benny Hill Occupation: Comedian Date of Birth: January 21, 1924 Died: April 18, 1992 Local link: Southampton born and bred

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