The history of the Penguin Fun Follies
1952 – 1961
The time has come to record the history of the Penguin Fun Follies that came into existence in the 1950’s, and was to finish in 1961.
This page is a tribute to those people and characters who were a integral part of the success of the follies, and a memorial to those who have since passed away. For now their story can be told.
I wish to pay a special thank you to the Penguin History Group (Tasmania), to Hugh Hiscutt, Athol Smith, and Bruce Beckerath for the information and images that will be displayed as the story unfolds. And last and by no means least, my right hand person in Karissa who assembles the website.
So bear with me as were go down memory lane.
"Dedicated to those “hoofers” who have passed away from this life, and a tribute to those still living. “Thanks for the memories”, one and all."
Patron, Producer, and Director:Wilfred G. Barker.
Costume designs and seamstress: Mrs Bill Williams.
Choreography: Myra Williams and later, Joyclynn Williams.
Backdrop set designs and Artwork: Don Urquhart and Jimmy Webb.
Musical Director: Mrs Jean Barker
Lighting Technician: John Robertson
Sound Technician: Hugh Hiscutt
The Penguin Fun Follies were generally based around pantomime themes with comedy sketches, and song and dance routines added. It is interesting to note that the amount of community involvement never ceased to wane in the early to late years of the existence of the shows. There was a special magic that seemed to under pin the whole concept that kept it vibrant, and full of vitality.
This was largely brought about by the support given by the communities that the shows performed to, from small outlying farming communities, to the towns, and in later years Launceston. Two things worked for the Follies, firstly it was local entertainment that helped provide much needed funds for Parents and Friends Associations of local schools, and secondly, television hadn’t yet really had an impact on family life. So why not support something that so many people gave of their time and effort to entertain others.
The personalities who constituted the follies, both on stage and behind the scenes were an amalgam of characters, all of whom were residents of Penguin and its hinterland. We must remember that all the names as I know them didn’t all perform as one big group. Some moved on, while others joined, either as performers or back stage technicians. All had a job to do, and what a job they did.
Members in Alphabetical order. * Known to be deceased.
Phyllis and Shirley Aitken, Harold & Margaret Atkinson, Darryl, Graham, Hilza (Jago), *Jean, Warren and *Wilfred Barker, Bruce and Goldie Beckerath, Mardi and Tom Bird, Arthur And Peggy (nee Spinks) Beswick, *Eric and Sandra (Robson) Boatwright, *Colin Broadbent, Noreen Butler, June Clarke, Sonia Clarke (O’Donnell), Nita Corker, Pam Coward, *Ernie Cunningham, Judith Deacon, Zoe Douglas, Marlene Dunn, Margaret Dynan, Bill Emmerton, Elaine Fall (Licandro), Barbara Fielding (Lever), Bill Fielding, Glen Fielding, *Sydney Fielding, Eula Gardiner (Rawson), Janet Gardiner, Meredene Gardiner (Doodt), Lexie Groom (Ling), *Phil Hales, Des, Hugh, *Sue, and Terry Hiscutt, Enid Howe , Brian Jago, Pam Kelb, Wilma Landcaster, Dorothy Lincoln (Davey), *Sadie Livingstone, David Macey, June and *Tom Mainwaring, Pauline McCulloch, Joan and John Medwin, Valerie Moles, Reg O’Donnell, John, *Patricia, and Wendy Owens, Valma Oliver, Lynette Pearton, Colin Pike, *Bobby and *George Preece, Ian and *Max Pretty, Dot Priestly, *John Robertson, Nita Robson, Jewel Richardson Merle Short, Athol and Trevor Smith, Richard Stubbs, Betty Thompson, Sheila Tregenna, *Don and Valma Urquart, *Jim Webb, John and Vernon Webster, Frank Watts, *Nancy Whittle, *Alice, Anne (Ellings), Joyclynn (Biner), and Myra ( DiMaria) Williams.
Members came to our shores from England and else where, these were the people that made those shows unique. Myra, Anne, and Joyclynn Williams, Max and Ian Pretty, Ernie Cunningham, John and Pat Owens, Sadie Livingstone, John Robertson, George and Bobby Preece, and Sheila Tregenna all added a dimension to the magic of the productions over the years.
As can be reasonably assumed some names may not been mentioned as they haven’t come to mind, or were not available at the time of writing. If you as a reader of this history are aware of omissions, please contact me. The address is included else where on this web page and site.
Shows in chronological order:
1952: Variety Revue
1953: Seven Ages Of Man
1954: Rollin’ Around The World
1955: Once Upon A Time
1956: Let Us Be Gay
1957: Seasons in Fantasy*
1959: Climbing High
1960: Dreamtime 1961: Do You Remember
* The 1957 season produced a record number of shows, 18 in all. The amount of money raised was £3200/00/00. in today’s currency, $6400.00 of which half was returned to the communities where the shows were performed. This then gives an indication of the amount of money that the Follies raised over the ten year period. In those days it was a small fortune. From 1957 the number of shows increased to take in a full six months on the road, with at least one show per week. Rarely if ever, did they perform to anything but full houses.
Some of the characters to be remembered:
Wilfred Barker: The stand up comic who always had a tall story or quip, to fill in time during scene changes. Usually with a fall guy who took the brunt of his humour this could have been any one of a number of the males that made up the balance of the on stage cast.
Wilfred in collaboration with others was responsible for the scripting and casting of characters for the Follies.
Bruce Beckerath: The man with iron lungs, and a strong voice to match was one of the lead vocalists of the shows. No slouch when wit was required either, and like so many others could turn his hand to almost anything.
John Owens: An ex British Air Force serviceman who was another of the characters to whom Wilfred directed his wit at. John also was able to demonstrate his vocal chords when called on. Thanks to this man the cast and crew were able to travel in comfort on one or other of his tour coaches.
Athol Smith: The “be in anything man”. A man who was, and still is, larger than life, just one of the cast who managed to keep everyone happy both on and off stage even if it meant dishing out his medicine in the form of a nip of sweet sherry. Athol always had an answer for the “smart” person who fired comments at him. Sadly today he is not in the best of health, and lives in retirement with his wife Winifred in Penguin.
Colin Broadbent: The tall thin man with a droll sense of humour who was the one person who you would never have picked to be a performer. A farmer and auctioneer by profession brought a certain amount of mystery as to how much talent this man had. Sadly, Colin left the shows to move interstate, and whether he is still alive is unknown.
Ernie Cunningham: I have a sneaking idea that Ernie was an Irishman. He could turn his hand to sing, dance, and play pantomime characters with ease. He was the lightest in weight of all the male cast, and was the one always chosen to be literally thrown around the stage, fortunately without injury. I can still see Ernie being hurled across stage in a skit about the “Sugar Plum Fairy”, wings and all.
Mrs. Alice Williams: This lady was the one who designed all the costumes, and in many cases made them for the people who couldn’t sew. Over the years she was responsible for the hundreds of different changes, and no designs ever seemed to be reused, such was her skills. Come to think of it, I never saw this lady flustered, not even when inside a week she had to produce a set of clothes to fit me when I took over from Colin Broadbent who was on sick leave.
Alice's daughters Myra and Joyclynn Williams: Both were dancers (Ballet and Tap) and at different stages were the choreographers for the dance routines that were a major part of the shows. My memories are more of Joyclynn who was also one of the major female vocalists in the latter years. Their sister Anne was a cast member.
Sadie Livingstone: The lady with the golden voice (one of several) who came to the Follies and had a number of years with it, then dropped out only to return for a short time later on.
Bobbie Preece: Now Bobbie was a character actor who developed characters usually ones that had an English flavour and why not, she was a good kind hearted, and a motherly lady who would help anyone struggling with a part.
Jean Barker: Pianist and musical director who I believe was the driving force for the choice of music that the show revolved around. Jean was never to the fore front, she just stayed behind the scenes doing her bit for the shows, as were the others who constituted the show orchestra.
Don Urquart: Once the shows were on the road, Don’s work was done. A sign writer by profession his skills brought to life the whole show/s with the designing and art work on the stage backdrops. Even to this day I wonder what happened to them all after the last show had run its course. Sadly like so many others Don has passed away
Now in fairness to all the cast and crew who
made up the follies, each and every one of them added their personalities to
the total amalgam that was the Penguin Fun Follies. There are tales all
members of the group could tell of the trips away, but suffice to say there
was always an undercurrent of fun and good humour. If one of our members was
feeling down, or was just not having good times, it didn’t last long as the
wags would soon put an end to that problem.
Setting up for the shows:
Sundays were the traditional days when all the sets and backdrops etc., were transported to the venue for the Monday night performances. A special canopy was fitted to a 5 ton Bedford truck to accommodate all the equipment, and a number of the cast and backstage crew would follow in their cars. In fact it became a family outing for some, and a means of maintaining courtships for others that culminated in matrimonial unions some of which lasted, other foundered in later years. As they say “That’s show business.”
Anecdotes from cast members still alive.
The black and white images to be displayed were taken from the last show in 1961 of the Penguin Fun Follies at the Penguin Town Hall.
The colour images were taken at the reunion dinner at the Neptune Hotel, Penguin, in February 1988, twenty seven years later. Sadly many of the cast, band, and backstage people have passed away, but the spirit of the Penguin Fun Follies lives on in the memories of those of us who remain.
The images that I have will be displayed at a later date in a separate page.
To All that view this page if there is any omissions or fact that are incorrect then I would love to hear from you using this address
John, "The Old Goat"
"With out your imagination,
You will never make the world laugh"