A local villager who became a world star

Ralph Reader.
Ralph Reader.

IN 1914, an 11-year-old orphan boy travelled up to Denton, near Newhaven, from Somerset, to be looked after by one of his uncles.

During his five year stay in the village he joined the local Scout troop and organised and performed in entertainment shows at the local halls.

He built up a reputation for putting on good shows and was also very good at getting people involved and encouraging them to take part.

Says Ian Everest in the latest Newhaven Times: ‘That person was Ralph Reader and he went on to become a legendary figure on Broadway where he directed and starred in many shows.

‘At one time there three shows playing at the same time - all of which he had directed.

‘But he never forgot the place where he was brought up and where he had his first experience of the life he craved.

‘My grandparents, who lived in Hampden Gardens, South Heighton, always had a visit from him when he was over from America. He would sit at the kitchen table in their humble house, drinking tea and telling them about his exciting life in New York.

‘His flashy suit and newly-acquired American accent were something of a novelty to them and they were delighted that fame and money had not changed him.

‘To them he was still the young Ralph who worked at the cement works and put on entertainment for the locals.’

Perhaps Ralph Reader’s biggest claim to fame was his creation of The Gang Show that became successful all over the world.

A plaque in his memory was recently installed on the wall of his former Denton home.

Pictured, Ralph Reader (centre) appearing on This Is Your Life in 1962 with Eamonn Andrews (left) and comedian Dick Emery.