Norman Wisdom’s mixture of laughter and tears in Hatfield
HE may have been one of the best known comic actors in the UK (and, bizarrely, Albania).
But few will be aware of the time the late Sir Norman Wisdom spent in Hatfield during his formative years.
Sir Norman, who died on October 4 aged 95, would have had mixed memories of his time in the town, flitting from rural idyll to brutal classroom reality.
According to the biography My Turn, written by William Hall, the screen legend’s connection with Hatfield began when he was exiled to the town with his brother Fred by their dad, also called Fred.
The unruly youngsters were banished to stay with fosterers Mr and Mrs Denmark on a farm in Roe Green, after the final straw came when a nine-year-old Sir Norman was caught trying to get run over by a bicycle in London’s Bayswater Road.
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He’d genuinely been run down a few days before and the woman, who was riding the bike, took pity on him and gave him sixpence.
Resourceful but desperately poor “guttersnipe” Sir Norman saw this as a way of raising much-needed cash.
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On arriving in Hatfield he recalled: “A whole new vista of country life opened out for us, totally removed from the squalor of the city streets.
“Fred and I helped milk the cows and feed the goats.”
He said his school in the town was three miles away and he and Fred would race each other across the fields to school each day.
But, it was at school that Sir Norman would be left with a painful reminder of his short stay in Times Territory.
He remembered: “There was one master at that school who took an intense dislike to me, and took a sadistic delight in making me squirm. He was a big man with thick black eyebrows and a nasty expression that seemed to blend into his face. He used a heavy old-fashioned round ruler to keep us in check.”
One day Sir Norman made the mistake of back-chatting the stern teacher. He was frogmarched to the front of the class and hit with a thick ruler which broke his right forefinger.
Shortly afterwards the brothers’ father ran out of money for their board and lodgings and they were shunted off to Deal, in Kent.
Wisdom later returned to Hatfield to open fish and chip shop Skippers in The Common.