Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund
Registered Charity 1092540

History of the Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund

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The Charity was formed in September 1969 by the executors of the late Bud Flanagan who was a comedian, entertainer and songwriter. Bud had lost a son to leukaemia and wanted part of his estate to be used for the purposes of research into and treatment of the disease and the relief of its victims.

The first major project for the charity was to construct the Bud Flanagan Ward at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, Surrey. This remains one of the principal national centres for bone marrow transplantation and research into this area of leukaemia treatment.

The Charity has continued to support the Leukaemia and Myeloma Units and its Head, Professor Gareth Morgan. Recent support of the Royal Marsden has included the rebuilding of the Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Ward, purchase of specific items of equipment, grants for research staff and various small sums to be used to assist in the day to day needs of leukaemia patients and their families.

Whist the Royal Marsden Hospital remains for the principal beneficiary of our activities, grants have been made to the Derbyshire Children’s Hospital and the Paediatric Units of the Hillingdon Hospital and North Park Hospital directly in relation to the leukaemia work being carried on by those institutions. In addition, a number of small individual grants have been made. In the past ten years the Charity has raised and distributed principally to the Royal Marsden Hospital, in excess of £1,000,000.

The Committee has always been drawn from a broad sector of business, commerce and the professions. The only requirement of a Committee member is that they give freely of their time and have something to contribute to our work in raising and distributing funds in accordance with the constitution.

We take particular satisfaction from our low administration costs. Our total administration costs are covered by investment income, so that 100% of funds raised go to good causes.

Who was Bud Flanagan?
Bud Flanagan was a British comedian and actor. He was born in 1896 at London and died in 1968 of a heart attack. Together with Chesney Allen he formed 'Flanagan and Allen' a renowned comedy double-act which appeared at the 'Crazy Gang' revues. Younger people may know Bud Flanagan as the voice singing the theme tune to the popular television series 'Dad's Army'

He was one half of arguably the most popular double act Britain has ever seen-a partnership whose upbeat songs and gentle humour played an important part in maintaining morale during Britain’s darkest hour in World War Two.

He is also remembered for singing the signature tune to the nation’s best loved - and most enduring comedy series, Dad's Army. And together with his partner Chesney Allen, he was part of the great comedy ensemble, The Crazy Gang, who delighted British audiences for over thirty years.

When the entertainer Bud Flanagan died on 20th October 1968, he was mourned by the whole of Britain.

“He had an individual charisma that was beyond pinning down. He just had something you can't bottle, as anyone who saw him live will confirm” says one committed fan.

Bud Flanagan’s life story is a remarkable one.
Flanagan- whose real name was Chaim Reuben Weintrop (he later changed it to Robert Winthrop), was born in 1896 in the East End of London to Polish Jewish immigrant parents- who had fled the anti-Jewish pogroms of Tsarist Russia. He began his lifelong association with the world of entertainment at the tender age of ten, when he became a call-boy at the Cambridge Music Hall. Two years later, he made his theatrical debut in a talent contest, performing conjuring tricks as Fargo, The Boy Wizard.

Flanagan was born with a sense of adventure and was keen to see the world. At the age of thirteen he gained free passage on a ship sailing for America by claiming he could cook- it soon became clear that he had no culinary talent whatsoever. In America his grand plan was to box as ‘Luke McGlook of England’. But his boxing proved no more successful than his cooking- he was K.O’d in his only fight. In America, Flanagan worked as a Western Union messenger, a worker in a feather duster factory and a newspaper seller- and appeared on stage in New York.

In 1915 however he returned to Britain to fight for King and country in the First World War. The war was to prove a turning point in his life. His Sergeant-Major in the Royal Field Artillery in Flanders was called Flanagan- providing Winthrop with the name he would use for his stage performances. And it was in a café in Flanders that he first met the man with whom he was to forge a lifelong friendship and who was to become his professional comedy partner- Chesney Allen.

It was still a while though before the men were to form the double act which made them both world famous. Flanagan, having failed to achieve much success in the theatre after being demobbed, was working as a taxi driver when he got the call to appear in the show of the legendary music hall singer Florrie Ford. The ‘straight man‘ in the show was Chesney Allen, who was also Forde‘s manager. Flanagan and Allen
were not an overnight success- they even considered quitting the theatre altogether to become bookmakers.
Their big break came when the leading impresario Val Parnell saw them perform and booked them to play at London’s Holborn Empire. After that Flanagan and Allen never looked back. Their routine, which included jokes, mixed with quick-fire repartee and tuneful, sentimental songs, proved a huge hit with audiences. While Ches played the straight man, serious, sober and reproaching, Bud was the irrepressible child-like clown, with the wide cheeky grin.

Their jokes stand the test of time. In one classic sketch, Bud and Ches are walking past a grand hotel. As Bud lights up yet another cigar, Ches says to him 'Do you know Bud, I've calculated that if you had never smoked you'd have saved enough money to buy this hotel". Bud replies "Do you smoke, Ches". "I've never smoked, Bud" "Do you own this hotel?". "No"."Well, shut up then".

Dressed in battered top hats and ragged clothes, Flanagan and Allen’s stage persona as two likeable down and outs struck a chord with audiences during the harsh Depression years of the 1930s. The pair’s famous signature tune ’Underneath the Arches’ told of enduringfriendship in harsh times and was written by Flanagan himself. Flanagan and Allen also performed as members of the hugely popular comedy troupe The Crazy Gang, along with high-wire act Nervo and Knox, comedians Naughton and Gold, and comedy juggler, ‘Monsewer’ Eddie Grey. Among the Crazy Gang’s biggest fans was the Royal Family- and in particular King George VI, the Queen’s father, who invited the troupe to play at Buckingham Palace.

The outbreak of World War Two saw Flanagan and Allen’s popularity rise still further. Their cheerful, upbeat songs such as 'Run, Rabbit, Run' and ‘Hang Up the Washing on the Siegfried Line‘ became huge hits and did much to boost morale. In fact, ‘Run, Rabbit Run‘ was the favourite song of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In 1941, along with other members of The Crazy Gang, they appeared in the film ’Gasbags’ in which they cheerfully defied the Nazis.

Sadly, Flanagan’s partnership with Allen ended in 1945 due to the latter’s poor health, although they did appear together in several reunions, including at Royal Variety Performances. Flanagan continued to keep busy; appearing on stage with The Crazy Gang, and in films, radio and later on television. In 1960, he was awarded the OBE. Two years later, after 15 years playing two shows a day, The Crazy Gang gave their last performance at the Victoria Palace. There was hardly a dry eye in the house. In an interview he gave at the time, Flanagan expressed his fear that tastes in humour were changing. “Tastes have changed so much in entertainment that I’ve begun to feel old-fashioned. The funny thing is that we are still doing the same stuff we started with and the public who come to see us still love it. Yet outside the Crazy Gang that material doesn’t mean much anymore”.

Times certainly were changing. The 1960s saw the rise of a new generation of middle-class University educated performers whose comedy was more satirical- and some would say nastier- than the gentle humour of Bud Flanagan.
Flanagan had a long and happy marriage to Anne, but his life was not without tragedy. The death of his beloved son Buddy, of leukaemia affected him deeply, and in his will he endowed The Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund- in an attempt to find a cure for the disease.

In 1968, a swansong. Jimmy Perry, creator of a new BBC comedy series called Dad’s Army had co-written a signature tune for the series entitled ‘Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler‘? To his great joy Bud Flanagan agreed to record it. Shortly afterwards, Flanagan suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 72.
At his memorial service, fellow comedian Charlie Chester paid Flanagan a generous tribute. “No artist born was more loved by his brothers. No man gave more in human happiness”.

Bud Flanagan may have been a rotten ship’s cook and a poor boxer- but he possessed the greatest talent of all-
of being able to make people smile.

The Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund
 General Secretary: Julie Rudland-Wood
 16 Royal Sovereign View
 East Sussex
 BN23 6EQ.

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