Last autumn I wrote about the Scottish musician Colin Tully, whose death was reported in the Guardian’s “Other Lives” pages. I quoted the online description of this section of the paper: “Obituaries pages traditionally describe and celebrate the lives of the great and good, the famous and infamous. There is another type of life that deserves noticing: people less in the public eye, or lives lived beyond formal recognition.”
Last weekend, in the printed edition, “Other Lives” reported the death of another musician, with a more famous name: Robin Le Mesurier, son of Hattie Jacques and John Le Mesurier. Most people over the age of 50 will remember his parents, from “Carry On” films, “Dad’s Army” and a host of other appearances. I was a big fan of Eric Sykes’s self-titled sitcom (“Sykes”) in which Hattie Jacques played the role of his sister. I knew that she was married to John Le Mesurier but before reading last Saturday’s paper I had no idea that they had a son together, let alone that he was an accomplished musician.
Robin Le Mesurier worked with Rod Stewart for many years, and Stewart described him in glowing terms: “I’ve had many wonderful and creative guitarists in my band, but Robin was always just a cut above … He was a beautiful, soulful lead, driving rhythms like a locomotive, and an unforgettable stage presence”. He also worked with Johnny Hallyday from 1994 to Hallyday’s death in 2017.
The information that really caught my eye, and which forms the heading for this piece, was about his time as a Womble. Again, anyone over 50 here in the UK will remember The Wombles (of Wimbledon Common), from the books by Elizabeth Beresford, the mid-70s animated TV shows or the band that had hits such as “The Wombling Song”, “Remember You’re a Womble” and “Wombling Merry Christmas”. The last of these was only kept off the top of the UK charts by Mud’s 1974 Christmas #1 “Lonely This Christmas”. As a band they toured, and appeared regularly on “Top of the Pops”. I knew that Mike Batt was involved, and that Chris Spedding had made live appearances in a Womble costume, and have now learnt that Robin Le Mesurier spent a year as the character Wellington. Or, to quote the “Other Lives” piece again:
“… for a year in the 70s he became a Womble – until a drugs bust ended his career as the furry Wellington”.
Unsurprisingly, drink and drugs played a part in his life as a musician in the 1970s and beyond, but they do not appear to have contributed directly to his death, aged 68. I am sorry that I have only learnt about him now that he’s gone. May he rest in peace.