His life is a story on its own, and further reading is available in a book by Dave Nicolson entitled: ‘Bobby Thompson – A Private Audience’
Bobby came to live in Monkseaton in 1961 after responding to a press advertisement for rented accommodation at 20 Princes Gardens. The house was secured, and Bobby lived there for 27 years with his wife Phyllis and later with his housekeeper Cissie. One stage quip was “Of course, I live in Munkseet’n – in a detached hoose – it’s faalin’ away from the rest”.
Bobby soon became an established face in the village and was a regular at all three pubs , but his preferred option was always the Black Horse. In the 1960s, the winter season saw a coal fire burning in the bar of the Black Horse and Bobby would often materialise through one door to warm his hands and backside for a few minutes before disappearing out the opposite door on his way to the ‘bookies’ or the local shops.
Occasionally Bobby would sit down and enjoy a bottle of brown ale (sometimes ‘ticking it on the slate’), and he would often play dominoes or entertain friends in the pub with his wit and humour. On one occasion, Bobby was actually barred from the Black Horse for alleged cheating at dominoes, but he was a very good player where memory was all important. One of his domino partners was a certain doctor from Marine Avenue who had an arrangement with Bobby whereby he would write out a sick note in the bar for his son, Michael, so that he could take time off school to accompany Bobby to Redcar and York race meetings!
Bobby loved living in Monkseaton and loved the people he met there. He was a local personality, but as far as Bobby was concerned, he was just another resident, and was accepted for that reason alone. It had nothing to do with his fame as a comedian.
Bobby was a gambling man, and this was a great weakness of his. He was happy to walk down to Alan and Paddy Dawson’s bookies shop on Front Street, and spend the afternoon there as just another punter. In those days, the bookies was run by William Dawson, along with the nearby barber’s shop where Bobby would also go for a haircut.
Notable visitors to Bobby’s house included Danny la Rue, who came on two occasions to see who he described as ‘The UK’s most underrated comic’. Ken Dodd, who was in awe of Bobby, was invited for afternoon tea when appearing at the Whitley Bay Playhouse, and David Jason called one morning for a bacon sandwich whilst appearing in pantomime with Bobby at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. David had not understood why Bobby got such an ovation before he even spoke a word, but he soon learned!
Perhaps the biggest visitor of all to Bobby’s house was Mohammed Ali, the championship boxer who arrived completely unannounced with a man called Jimmy Stanley, a local scrap man from Newcastle who organised his North East visit. Later, Bobby was presented with a signed photo of Ali with a personal message to the ‘Little Waster’ which he treasured.
Bobby died on 16th April 1988 at Preston Hospital, North Shields, aged 76 years. His memory lives on and he will be fondly remembered for many years to come.
by Charlie Steel © 2013
His published books include ‘Monkseaton Village’ Vols 1 & 2, and ‘North Shields Public Houses, Inns & Taverns’ Parts 1 & 2, all of which are available from most local booksellers.