The following article is reproduced from The Sunday Tribune, December 2, 1984 (Durban, South Africa)
Meet the men (and woman) in Springbok Radio's longest running comedy series...
17 years and still going strong
THE MINISTRY TEAM ... lady first and going up: Maureen Adair, Tommy Read, John Simpson, Roger Service, Frank Graham (back left) and the distinguished Tom Meehan
TAKE a dizzy office secretary
with stick-on eyelashes that tend to get caught in her typewriter, an
office boss whose greatest talent is to do no work, a bumbling sidekick
who carries a brolly, wears a bowler and rides a broken-down bicycle -
plus a few eccentric extras - and what have you got?
During its run, only one
woman has uttered lines in the show, although a dozen-plus female parts
are regularly featured. She is Maureen Adair who plays, among others,
Tanya the Russian spy, a Scots matron, a brash American tourist, occasionally
Mrs Rampersad Haribhai Spoonilal V Muckerjee, a baby crying ("That's
my piece de resistance"). But best known, and Maureen's two favourite
characters, are the irrepressible Mildred and the decrepit, but vampy,
Maureen was born in Dublin and came to South Africa in
1952 to wed of the late Harold Lake whom she met when they both played
lead roles in a romantic comedy The Desert Song. At the time, he had gone
to England to work, in but later returned to South Africa. Maureen had
been offered a part in the Goon Show which was about to begin it's famous
run on BBC radio, but turned it down to come to South Africa.
NUMBER One, brolly-carrying
Roland Lennox-Brown, is, in the words of John Simpson, the man who plays
him and who has been in radio since 1949: "The opposite of a workaholic.
He's the sort of man who usually has his weekends planned by Monday lunchtime.
"He is head of the General Assistance Department but only by virtue
of years of service. Certainly ability doesn't come into it - unless it
is ability to pass the buck. I'd say his greatest ability is to do no
ROGER Service, who plays
Richard Lamb, Number Two in the General Assistance Department, has been
a professional radio actor since 1948. In recent years, he has turned
more and more to writing for radio and has three serials and 107 plays
to his credit. "That's more than Shakespeare -- but it doesn't make
me rich," he says dourly. He describes Lamb as: "A bit of a
bumbler. Not overly bright. A typical silly ass, in fact. But he's warm
and, I think, generous. For me he typifies the sort of person you find
in the Civil Service -in England of course."
TOMMY Read, who plays the
ancient Humbert Snethersthwaite who 'splashes', Mr Rampersad Haribhai
Spoonilal V Muckerjee straight from India (and also Mr. Creepy Crawly,
Major Trumble, Arthur Bollett the newsreader, Mildred's boyfriend Bernard
- and you name it, he's done it), came to South Africa from England in
1948 as an apprentice jockey. He rode professionally until 1955 then smashed
his left arm. "That and weight problems forced me out," the
extremely versatile 52-year-old actor, who has been in radio for 20 years,
says. Tommy is married to Rhona, sister of actor Dale Coutes of Villagers
and Westgate fame. The two men were doing a play in Durban in 1965. Rhona
went along to a rehearsal. She and Tommy met. Dale later invited Tommy
round to his family's Durban home for dinner. "And that was it."
FRANK Graham rattles off
the parts he plays as fluidly as he rattles out his roles. "There's
Venables. the man who always puts a 'bubble' at the end of his words.
Then very often I play tile fruit who says 'hello, hello, hello . . .'I
do Matthews the hall porter, and then the mad Italian opera singer who
appears from time to time."
FINALLY in our Ministry line-up,
we have the pair who put it all together - father and son team, Tom and
Barry Meehan. (Professionally, son Barry works under the name Brian Squires).
Sadly Maureen Adair passed away tragically in 1998.