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Tuesday, 27 June 2017


Today is the 50th anniversary of the first bank hole-in-the-wall machine, launched in Enfield, north London by Reg Varney.

My earliest memory of Reg Varney was his appearance as Reg Turner in The Rag Trade (1961 - 63), a sitcom set in a textiles factory called Fenner Fashions. The boss was played by Peter Jones and other characters were played by Sheila Hancock, Miriam Karlin ("Everybody out!") and Barbara Windsor.

From memory, he starred as various characters in a short-lived comedy series called The Valiant Varneys (1964 - 65). It was a tea-time family show with daft scripts, but I'm sure it was funny in its day.

He guested on several TV shows including Emergency Ward 10 through the 1960s too.

His third series was Beggar My Neighbour (1966 - 68). He played Harry Butt, a handyman, and the cast included June Whitfield and Pat Coombs. It was a sort of keeping-up-with-the-Jones's comedy.

Reg Varney hit TV gold when he took on his most famous role as bus driver Stan Butler in On The Buses (1969 - 73). It ran for 68 episodes and spawned three feature films. It was an ensemble sitcom full of silliness, insults, innuendo and scheming. Stephen Lewis very nearly stole the show as Inspector Blake ("I 'ate you Butler!') and the rest of the cast threw themselves into the hugely successful farce that it was. In retrospect, On The Buses is clunky stuff but the ratings were good back in the day and, from time to time, ITV repeat the show. It is worth a look but brace yourself for 1970s comedy which almost certainly jars with today's expectations.

Interestingly, whilst Reg Varney had a decent career up to his On The Buses work, he was in his early fifties when he first starred in the show. When the run finished, he took his one-man show on cruise ships and to Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

At the end of the 1970s, he retired and suffered with health problems including a heart attack in 1981 and a stoke in 1989.

He died at 92 on 16 November 2008.

My generation will remember a lot of funny moments featuring Reg Varney, one of television's most popular comedy actors, and it is nice that his name is highlighted today, if only for the anniversary of a cash dispenser.

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