Bobby Thompson 1911 – 1988
Bobby Thompson was the much loved North East Comedian, who for much of his career played almost exclusively to sell out crowds on the North East club circuit. Famous for two part act The Little Waister and The Old Soldier.
Robert Michael “Bobby” Thompson was born on 18th November 1911. The seventh child of John and Mary Thompson. By the time Bobby was 8 years old, both his parents had died. He was then raised by his elder sister in the village of Fatfield (located in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear).
Leaving school at 15, he started worked at North Biddick Colliery, where he earned 7 shillings and sixpence a week. He would supplement his income by playing the harmonica around local working men’s clubs and competing in domino tournaments. His first stand-up performance took place at the Gem Cinema in Penshaw as a young lad.
Bobby married three times, his second wife, Phyllis, died in the 1970s. He announced his engagement to Mary Douglass, 62, of Annfield Plain a few years later, but the engagement broke off. In 1980, Bobby married his housekeeper, Eleanor Cicely Palmer, more commonly known as Cissy Ward (maiden name Wake). Bobby was her third husband and was famously taller than he was. At the time of their marriage, Cissy was 62.
Bobby was also renowned for his problems with the tax man, stemming from the fact that he never seemed to pay any. This was an unfortunate fact that he turned to humour in his act.
During the 1970’s problems with drink, finances and his health began to affect his career, but he remained a North East favourite, particularly on the club scene, until shortly before his death.
Bobby was taken to hospital on 9th April 1988, suffering from breathing problems. He died a week later.
Bobby Thompson was famous for his broad Wearside, or more specifically Sunderland accent, self-deprecating humour and as a master of the mother-in-law joke,
Affectionately known as The Little Waster due to his short stature, a fact he often played upon his act, describing himself as “Little Bobby”. His most famous outfit was a worn out stripey jumper (Wooly gansey) and flat cap. His ever-present Woodbine cigarette stub, hanging from the corner of his mouth, was also an integral part of his on-stage persona.
His attempts to move beyond North East England were limited by his accent and the regional bias of his humour, although he did enjoy some success with the BBC show, Wot Cheor Geordie.
A typical Bobby Thompson show would consist of two halves. In the first half Bobby would come on in his trademark jumper as the little waister regailing the audiences with tales of debt, marriage and Mother In Laws. In the second half of his act he would come back on stage dressed as an old soldier in full battle dress and regail the audiences with tales of the part he played in the Second World War.