Washington County Durham


Memories of  ...

The Little Waster

Bobby Thompson

  •   Full Name:
  •   Parents:
  •   Date of Birth:
  •   Place of Birth:
  •   Date of Death:
  •   Place of Death:
  • Robert Michael Thompson
  • 7th child of coal miner John Thompson and his wife Mary
  • 18 November 1911
  • Penshaw, Co. Durham
  • 16 April 1988 (aged 76)
  • Preston Hospital, North Shields

1.  He crossed the bridge from Penshaw Staithes to attend Fatfield School.
2.  Orphaned by the age of 8 and brought up in Fatfield by his eldest sister.
3.  Working at North Biddick Colliery (aged, 14), his first pay was 11s 9d.
4.  Bobby left the pit in 1931 to join Billy Bankhead's Mouth Organ Band.
     He played the mouth organ and was the band's resident comedian.
5.  During World War II, he served with the Border Regiment.

Phyllis:  "Bobby, can yer fix the string on wa carrier bag?"
Wor Bobby:  "Whey yuh nahr am norran engineer!"

Caricature of Bobby Thompson
Caricature of The Little Waster by Paul Hutchinson


Bobby Thompson - Fatfield Schoolboy

Fatfield School Group


Two schoolmates from Penshaw Staithes: Stan Rodgerson (2nd row, 8th from the left) & Bobby Thompson (centre of back row)

[ This precious family photograph appears here by kind permission of David Jones, nephew of Stan Rodgerson.  Many thanks, Dave. ]

•   •   ◊   •   •

Fatfield School


Biddick Lane, left just beyond the school.  Straight ahead to the River Wear, Fatfield Bridge and Penshaw Staithes.


Bobby Thompson went to the same primary school as one of the world's greatest scientific minds, Sir Harold ... Whatchamacally?

"If yer divvent knar wot the' carled him, click here."


Bobby's Pit

Bobby's Pit

North Biddick Colliery  -  Victoria Viaduct  -  The River Wear
Looking downstream towards Cox Green.

•   •   ◊   •   •

Blue Bird Band

Billy Bankhead';s Band

Bobby left North Biddick Colliery in 1931 to join Billy Bankhead's Mouth Organ Band.
He played mouth organ and was the band's resident comedian.


More Facts about Little Bobby

  •   Height:
  •   Lived at:
  •   Second Wife:
  •   Third Wife:
  •   1950s:
  •   1960s:
  •   1970s/80s:
  • 5ft 4ins (1.63m)
  • Penshaw, Fatfield, Great Lumley, Barley Mow & Whitley Bay.
  • Phyllis (died 25th April 1967)
  • Eleanor Cicely Palmer (née Ward, m.1980) - Bobby's former housekeeper.
  • Bobby was a Radio Star, thanks to the BBC's 'Wot Cheor Geordie' programme.
  • His career nosedived following a disasterous venture into television with TTT.
  • Given a chance to perform again by Frank Wappat, he became King of Clubland.

1. Poverty & debt were the mainstay of Bobby's act, along with a host of mother-in-law jokes.

2. Discovered by Richard Kelly, he had great success with BBC Radio's Wot Cheor, Geordie.

3. Later, in the early 1960s, a disastrous TTT series, produced by someone who knew nothing about North-East culture & dialects, almost killed his career. (For example: he ordered Bobby to say things like 'going' instead of 'gannin'!) For the next 5 years, Bobby struggled to get bookings and had to resort to taking part in Talent Competitions to raise some cash. He also appeared in court for non-payment of debts.

4. Bobby had serious problems with drinking, smoking & gambling, losing many thousands of pounds. He eventually gave up drinking but had to stick with the 'tabs' because they were such an important part of his stage persona. He always enjoyed a little flutter.

5. Bobby almost wrecked his career, single-handedly, by sometimes accepting bookings at clubs and failing to turn-up, leaving hundreds of disappointed members. He'd have been offered a few shillings more to perform at another club, and would go there instead!

6. His gambling led to financial problems and, reputedly, he died owing the tax man £137,000.

Little Bobby:  "If yu pays what yu owe, yu'll niver hev nowt."

Bobby's 3rd wife, Cissie
Cissy: Bobby's Third Wife
[Photo: Chronicle Live]



Little Waster
Bobby Thompson as The Little Waster
[Photo: Chronicle Live]

The Little Waster

Remember these?

1. "The dole is my shepherd, I shall not work.

2. "A man come to oor door. Ah says come in, tak a seat. He says, 'I'm coming in to tak the lot.'"

3. "Wu got off the train at Blackpool, the porter came up an' asked if 'e could carry me baggage. I said 'Na, let 'er wark'."

4. "Wu went into a restaurant an' asked for a coffee. The waiter asked if wu wanted black or white. She says, 'I'll have black wi' milk in'."

5. "He's a Freemason; he puts fireplaces in for nowt!"

6. "When ya drunk, yu say things yu divent mean. I says to her, I love ya. After a wiped the blood off me face ... Ah says gis a kiss under the mistletoe. She says, 'Ask me mother'. Ask 'er mother for a kiss under the mistletoe! Ah wouldn' kiss 'er under chloroform!"

7. "Ah says, 'Am not gannin te work; it's ower foggy.' She looks ooter the winda 'n' says, 'Well I can see over the rooftops'. Ah says, 'Ah divvent gan that way!'"

8. "She's putting up sandwiches on the Monday an' wa not gannin till the Wednesday. Well ye kna tinned tomatoes torn claggy."



Bobby in army
Bobby Thompson relating his Wartime Experiences
[Photo: Chronicle Live]

The Auld Soldier

More of Bobby's Gems:

 9. "1939 - I was secretary for the street ... I went for treasurer but ah was too well known!"

10. "They came into the court and they woz givin' the papers out to the jurerors ... She shouts, 'Bobby, there must be a Hoosie on before yer case!'"

11. "Noo, ah divvent kna where aal ye's are from ... (changes to a posh accent)
but I'm from Whitley Bay."

12. "She says, 'Bobby, we'll just have a two course lunch cos it's rather warm'.
Two course?!  Chips n' sarce!!"

13. "There was a knock at oor door last Wednesdah mornin. He says, 'Am from Littlewoods'. Ah says, God bless ya! I've won the treble chance?! He says, 'Nah, your wife's up for shoplifting!'"

14. "Now, that's the thing aboot debt. Some carls it debt, ya see, and then there's them what carls it credit. Committee men's wives, 'on account'. Well, am in debt on account of not being able to pay me credit!"

15. "Ah went to the doctors. He said, 'Can you walk?' Ah said, 'Work! ah cannet even wark!'"

16. "The Queen came up tiv us wirra a plate of cakes. 'Bobby, would you like a scone or a meringue?'. Ah says, 'Nah ya quite reet, ah'll have a scone.'"



Little Bobby at The Gem

Bobby at The Gem Cinema.

Thanks to Derek Sleightholme for supplying this press cutting.

Location of The Gem Cinema.

The Gem Theatre / Cinema is located just above Fatfield Bridge.

The Gem
Letters 'NEDS' on the side door

The Gem
North East Direct Supply Ltd on the front door


The Gem Cinema started life as the North Biddick Colliery Miners' Welfare Hall.
While it was best known as the Gem Cinema, its name was changed to the Victory Cinema after WW2.  Note the 'V'.
In its final years it hosted NEDS - a well known local distribution company which delivered pop by lorry to households in the surrounding area.
Who remembers: Lemonade, Cherryade, Ice Cream Soda, Sarsaparilla, Dandelion & Burdock et al?

( With the impending demolition of The Gem, NEDS moved to a new factory on land between the Bird In Hand public house and the Leamside Line.  Thanks to Dave Jones. )


Bobby Thompson

Cleethorpes Empire poster
Top of the Bill

Evening Dress
"Thanks for the laughs, Bobby."

Time For A Drink!
Opening Church Shop


Bobby Thompson re-opens the Church of England Children's Society Shop in Dean Street.
[ Photo & Information: Thanks to Chronicle Live ]

•   •   ◊   •   •

Time For A Drag!
Bobby with Danny La Rue

WH Smith, Eldon Square, NEWCASTLE - 3rd November 1987

Little Bobby with Danny La Rue - who was signing copies of his autobiography,
'From Drags To Riches'.

[ Photo & Information: Thanks to Chronicle Live ]

Usworth Top Club

I saw Bobby Thompson live on only one occasion, in the Top Club concert room. I went with fellow members, and life-long mates of mine, Tom Thirlaway and Bob Brookes. The place was packed and there was only one topic of conversation, "Will he turn up?" Then the Concert Chairman called for order - "Ladies and Gentlemen ... I can now inform you that Mr Thompson is on his way toooo the Club." (Cheering!)

Sometime later, we were called to order once again: "Ladies and Gentlemen ... Mr Thompson is now iiiiin the Club." (More cheering and clapping, plus much anticipation.) Bobby did the same old act - some had seen it umpteen times - The Little Waster & The Auld Soldier. But who cared? Nobody! He was hilarious and a great night was had by all.

Bobby Thompson had his ups & downs but he brought laughter into our lives.  He was a Star!   (Jim)



Bobby's Blue Plaque

Bobby's Blue Plaque

Unveiled at Harraton Community Centre on 15th November 2019 by Bobby's son, Keith.
[ Photo courtesy of: Ernie Guy, Member of Washington History Society - 15 Nov 2019. ]

Harraton Community Centre

Harraton Community Centre on Bonemill Lane
[ Photo: J.G. 18th October 2017 ]

"Fost Hand? ... A'd Rather Be Fost Foot!"

Keith Unveiling The Plaque

Keith Thompson unveiling His Father's Plaque
[ Photo courtesy of: Ernie Guy - 15 Nov 2019. ]

Keith and Sunderland Mayor

Mayoress, Cllr Dianne Snowdon  -  Keith Thompson  -  Mayor of Sunderland, Cllr David Snowdon
[ Photo courtesy of: Ernie Guy - 15 Nov 2019. ]


Peter Peverley - Keeping The Legend Alive

Peter Peverley
Washington's Peter Peverley
Shakespearean Actor & Musician

Peter Peverley
Theatre Royal - Peter commemorating 25 years since Bobby's death
[Photo: Chronicle Live]


(Quotations from an Article by Entertainment Editor, Gordon Barr, March 2013)

Gordon Barr: "Pete's self-devised one-man show is a celebration of the life and work of Bobby, a touching and heartfelt tribute to his immense talent, and also the culture to which North Easterners owe their very unique identity and sense of humour."

Peter: “Bobby had a special place in our hearts and minds and with this 25th anniversary tour, I hope I can help people relive some of the wonderful moments they had in his presence, initiate the uninitiated, and recreate some of the magical memories we all have of this very special man.”

•   •   ◊   •   •

Bobby's Blue Plaque

( Harraton Community Centre )

Peter Peverley / Keith Thompson
Pete Peverley with Keith Thompson, after Keith had unveiled his father's Blue Plaque.
[ Photo courtesy of: Ernie Guy, Member of Washington History Society - 15 Nov 2019. ]


Keith's Cartoon & Bobby's Statue

Keith's Cartoon

Keith Thompson's Cartoon of his Father, 'Little Bobby'.

Bobby's Statue

Statue of 'Little Bobby' c/w Packet of Woodbines!
Discovered in an Antiques Shop in the grounds of South Causey Inn, near Causey Arch.

[ Photographer: Keith Cockerill, 14 August 2022 ]