Sir David Frost: Man of many talents

Sir David Frost’s funeral has taken place, with close family and friends attending a service for the former Wellingborough Grammar School pupil.

Veteran chat show host Sir Michael Parkinson, comedian Ronnie Corbett and broadcaster Stephen Fry were among the congregation at the Holy Trinity Church in Nuffield, Oxfordshire.

Sir David Frost, whose funeral took place earlier this week

Sir David Frost, whose funeral took place earlier this week

Sir David died at the age of 74 on September 1 after suffering a heart attack while on board a cruise ship.

Rushden man John Garley, a fellow pupil of Sir David, has shared his schoolday memories with the Telegraph.

He recalls the spoof letters written by Sir David which appeared in the paper, his acting abilities and how he nearly signed for Nottingham Forest!

Mr Garley said: “David was the son of the Rev W Paradine Frost, a Methodist minister, who had been posted to the Methodist Church in Raunds, from Gillingham in Kent.

The Frost Report Is Back team

The Frost Report Is Back team

“He was a ‘mature’ student of 15 when he transferred to Wellingborough Grammar School, and soon put this maturity to work, to the amusement of his fellow pupils, and the chagrin of the masters who were theoretically in charge of him.

“In the spring of 1955, David invented a couple of middle-class characters with splendid nom-de-plumes; letters appeared in the Evening Telegraph, written by a Lawrence E Walgrave, who was complaining about the dog mess fouling our streets, and offering a radical solution. Mr Walgrave wrote:

How many readers have had their walks defiled – and I use that word advisedly – by the excrement of dogs, encouraged by their owners?

These animals, so falsely called our four-legged ‘friends’, are a positive menace.

With Graham Tall, his English teacher Geoff Cooksey and David Tall

With Graham Tall, his English teacher Geoff Cooksey and David Tall

My young daughter alone has been bitten five times during her short life, once having to spend a night in hospital.

I would like to see all dogs shot or gassed.

How can workers today press for more pay when many of them waste so much of their wages and food on these obnoxious vermin?

Lawrence E Walgrave

David Frost with John Garley

David Frost with John Garley

Bedford Rd,

Rushden

“Naturally this provoked a tremendous response from the dog owning public, who inundated the paper with replies, filling an entire page with protestations, to which Walgrave, obviously, had to respond; his subsequent solutions being progressively outrageous.

“To David’s amazement, however, four out of the first seven replies all supported his suggested course of action!

“In fact a Mr S Lawrence had put forward an amendment suggesting that councils should set up gassing chambers for extermination purposes, thus avoiding the ferocity of shooting.

“Years later David was still unsure if Mr S Lawrence was yet another of his invented characters.

With former US President Richard Nixon

With former US President Richard Nixon

“The correspondence went on for about six weeks, ending when Walgrave offered the final solution of having the dog owners shot instead!

“He then turned the subject around to the subject of parks, with the headline ‘Why Waste Space on Pleasure’ under the name of J Howard Grainger, with the theory that all parks should be abolished and used for building purposes.

“A particular venom was reserved towards Swanspool in Wellingborough which was ‘disfigured’ by classical Greek statues in the park we all walked through to catch the school bus; they were of nude nymphs, both male and female, and Grainger complained that they affronted the moral decency of visitors to the park, and pubescent schoolboys.

“His solution was that the council should cover up the offending parts by putting clothes over them and so avoid any embarrassment to the public and any other feelings that might be aroused in innocent schoolboys.

“You can imagine the effect this had on the readers of the letter page of the newspaper.

“Another six weeks of correspondence boosted the ink use of the presses.

“David admits to ‘having a laugh’ with other spoofs; Bill Haley was at his peak around 1956, and he thought he would cash in on his popularity; he, and other un-named accomplices, bottled some soapy water and sold it on the Wellingborough Streets as Bill Haley’s bath water.

“Five people snapped it up at three old pence a bottle. The police moved him on. And all this from the son of a man of the cloth.

“I wonder whether he ever thought of these antics when he was interviewing any of the eight British Prime Ministers and seven US Presidents on TV, especially during that famous Richard Nixon interview?

“As you can imagine, he enjoyed his time at the school, and we enjoyed his company, especially his acting ability.

“We acted together in school plays; notably in Macbeth in 1956, and it was during our ‘off-stage’ periods that he taught me how to play chess on my newly acquired pocket chess set!

“The school magazine of that year got it just about right, though, when it stated that:

‘Banquo was ably played by D P Frost, who was also assistant producer... but... the emphasis was, rightly, on the forces of evil that led Macbeth to destruction, and particularly on the malevolence of the witches.

‘These weird creatures were played most convincingly by Derek Roberts, Brian Woods and John Garley.’

“The first time that David Frost’s name was in lights, and mine linked to it!

“Could it have been Broadway next stop?

“Having been invited to the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Concert in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in 2002 I bumped into him on the South Terrace steps – we talked and he reminded me that he couldn’t understand why the characters he played in school plays were always killed off half way through the play.

“Obviously his acting ability wasn’t fully appreciated in 1956!

“David Frost was a youth of many talents, he could have been a professional footballer; the school played rugby, to which took an instant dislike; he enjoyed soccer and played for Raunds.

“One Saturday, on what he would call an atypical occasion, he had eight shots on goal and scored eight goals.

“There was a scout from Nottingham Forest at the match, who was so impressed with David that, after the match, asked him to sign on with Forest.

“He recalls saying ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ as he had his heart set on going to university, and also the signing on fee would have been a mere £5-00, weekly wages a mere fraction of today’s inflated amounts.

“After all this amusement and excitement David Frost went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and graduated with a degree in English.

“An entry in the 1958 school magazine, however, tells us:

‘We are all wondering how he manages to play soccer, act in the ADC, and attend all the meetings of his societies, in addition to 12 lectures per week.

‘However, we feel confident that he will soon bring things into their proper perspective and cut out the lectures.’

“He was seen in the Cambridge Footlights Review by a TV producer who was impressed with David and a few of his fellow revuers, Bernard Levin, Ian McKellen, Trevor Nunn and Corin Redgrave to name but a few.

“That Was The Week That Was was one of the programmes that resulted – the rest is history, as they say!”

With Tony Blair

With Tony Blair