Su Pollard: I Remember

Su Pollard is a true UK treasure. The Nottingham born comedy actress and singer shares her fondest memories with Reader's Digest. From discovering her flamboyant dress sense to scoring a Top Ten hit single.

I Remember...

…always having a flamboyant dress sense 

When I was five, my mum Hilda took me to C&A in Nottingham. I said, “I want that blue dress with the yellow polka dots and I want one blue tight and one yellow one.” My mum’s dress sense was more twin set and pearls.

 

…my handsome Dad

I remember him at a family party, all suited and booted, singing “My Way” like Frank Sinatra and everyone cheering him on and shouting, “More, Don, more!” I was so proud of him. He always said to me, “You’ve got to follow your dreams.”

A ten-year-old Su on holiday at the local caravan park in Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire

 

…making an audience laugh for the first time

I didn’t mean to. I was the angel Gabriel’s assistant in the school nativity, aged six, and was standing on a cardboard box to deliver my line to Mary, “Fear Not! Angel Gabriel will…” at which point I fell right through the box—the teacher hadn’t made it strong enough. It wasn’t an auspicious start to my acting career, but I loved how the audience laughed at the situation, so I clambered out of the box and finished my line “…be coming to give you a sign.” Everyone loved it.

 

…getting into trouble

One day in our cookery class, Miss Poole said to us, “Clean out your drawers, girls,” and I laughed because it made me think of old-fashioned underwear. She sent me to the headmistress to say, “Miss Poole says I’m daft.” Another time, the headmistress called me into her office and said, “Susan, you’re wearing the school cloak like a Dracula cape. That’s not allowed. I think your theatrical tendencies need an outlet. You should join the local amateur-dramatic society.” To this day I thank her for those words of wisdom. I couldn’t have got a better grounding if I’d gone to drama school, and I was an enthusiastic participant at the Co-Operative Arts Theatre until I left Nottingham.

 

…singing “Ave Maria” in hot pants.

I started singing in pubs and working men’s clubs when I was 15. The clubs were a rather better place to learn your trade because they had proper secretaries that booked your act. I got paid £10 a gig, which was marvellous. One time my friend John and I did an evening together. He was a drag act and I helped get his wigs on and then sang “Ave Maria”.

 

…seeing London for the first time 

I’d answered an ad in The Stage magazine for a part in the musical The Desert Song. I’ll never forget arriving at St Pancras station aged 19 for the audition; it looked like a Disneyland castle and I was so excited. Four days later I got a call saying I’d got the job and that they wanted me straight away. But I hadn’t done my fortnight’s notice! My boss was lovely and said, “Just go.” I never looked back.

Su Pollard Young

An early publicity shot aged 16, when Su was playing working men’s clubs

 

…coming second to a singing dog in Opportunity Knocks in 1974 

It was a Jack Russell owned by a headmaster who got all his pupils to vote for him. I sang “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No”, but I didn’t have my glasses on and couldn’t see the camera, so I sang at the speaker by mistake. That Jack Russell’s got a relation somewhere—let’s hope I never get to meet it.

 

…a horse finding me very attractive 

I had to be the back end of a stage horse in one episode [of Hi-de-Hi!]. There was also a real horse in the scene, and before we knew what was happening it had mounted me and I was shouting, “Help! Help!” from under my costume.

Purchase the complete Hi-de-Hi! box set, click here.

 

…being recognised

About three episodes of Hi-de-Hi! had been aired when I was walking down Chapel Market in north London and noticed people looking at me strangely. One chap said, “Hi-de-Hi!” so I answered, “Ho-di-Ho!” and he told me how much he loved the show. A woman asked for my autograph and for some reason I came over all posh and said, “Oh yes, certainly,” like I was a grande dame.

 

…filming the last-ever scene

After eight years as Peggy and all those amazing times we had together, it was really hard. The wind was blowing and the rain was pouring down, so the cameraman was having difficulty getting the shot of Peggy all alone in the camp waving goodbye to the departing van. After 14 takes, I said, “I can’t do this any more.” I was that emotional.

 

…hitting number two in the charts in 1986

I couldn’t believe it. The song “Starting Together” had been recorded as the theme to a popular documentary at that time. We had to film a video on a snowy Hampstead Heath, with me in a pink floppy hat getting snowballs chucked at me.

 

…Paul Shane 

I’d worked with him on Hi-de-Hi! and You Rang, M’Lord?so it was no wonder when we were together again shooting a scene for Oh, Doctor Beeching! that I got confused and shouted “Ted! Ted!” at him. Only his name wasn’t Ted in that show. We filmed Oh, Doctor Beeching! on a real station and every time it rained 16 bedraggled actors would shout “Hi the huts!” and we’d take shelter in the little huts used for storing the props. 

You can purchase Oh, Doctor Beeching! and You Rang M'Lord? in the Reader's Digest shop. 

 

…meeting the Queen

I did three Royal Variety Performances, and when I met her I said, “Can we swap skins, Ma’am?” because she had the most fantastic skin. She beamed at me.

Su Pollard art Buckingham palace

with parents Don and Hilda at a Buckingham Palace garden party

 

…tap dancing with The Princess of Wales

We were at a charity event at 10 Downing Street. I was in Me and My Girl at the time and told her I was finding the tap dancing hard. She said she’d done it at school, and before I knew it we were tapping together. I couldn’t wait to tell my mum!

 

…dancing with Anton Du Beke on Strictly Come Dancing

He’s ever so good. When we first met, he looked at me like I was from Planet Zod. We got on very well, even though he knew I was never going to be a spectacular partner.

 

…my best style moment 

It was for An Audience With Ken Dodd. I wore a red silk dress and huge feather boa, a silver 1960s cap and necklace…and black-and-red trainers. Most high heels you can’t walk in, and who wants to be stuck in the corner of a room when you could be out there having fun?

If you enjoyed this I Remember article you may also enjoy Joan Collins: I Remember and David Jason: I Remember.