From author's collection of Liverpool autographs

RAY, Ted  [1905-1977]

Always referred to as a Liverpool comic Ted Ray was in fact a son of Wigan. He was born there on 21st November 1905, the son of Charles and Margaret Olden, and was christened Charlie. However, his family did have Liverpool roots. His grandfather, Henry Olden, born in Worcestershire the son of a schoolmaster, was a designer of stained glass and he had moved to Liverpool by the early 1870’s. It was there that his son, Charles, was born, the family living at 30 Quarry Road, West Derby and then 9 Ivy Leigh.

Charles Olden had been a small-time variety entertainer but with the arrival of children looked to more secure employment as a publican. So the first few years of Charlie’s life were spent firstly in The Stanley Arms, Chorley and then The Bull’s Head, Upholland. It was their mother’s need for an operation that prompted them to move to Liverpool which they did in 1912, taking a small house at 28 Apollo Road L4, which ran off Belmont Road. They subsequently moved a short distance to a slightly larger house at 5 Oakfield RoadL4. It had been Charles Olden’s intention to find a new pub to run in Liverpool but when this did not materialise he took up employment as a steward on the Empress of Britain which sailed between Liverpool and Canada.

Charlie attended the Liverpool Collegiate School and then found a job as an office boy at R Silcock & Co, manufacturers of cattle food. He found the work tedious and longed to pursue a career either as a professional footballer or an entertainer. On the first front he was successful in gaining a trial with Liverpool F.C. and was on their books for a season making some appearances in their reserve team. They did not retain him at the season’s end and he had to purse his football dreams as a pastime not a job, signing for Ainsdale F.C.

His road to stardom began with a variety of acts and names. He appeared as ‘Hugh Neek’ and Nedlo the Gypsy violinist, often performing at cinemas in the city. In his autobiography he says that his career really began to take off when he abandoned outrageous costumes and props and went on stage to ‘be himself’. This more intimate approach gave him a better relationship with the audience and he began to be noticed. His first solo appearance on a ‘real’ stage was at the Lyric Theatre in Everton Valley. In 1930 he made the move to London and having changed his stage name to Ted Ray began to enjoy real success. By the time the war started he had established himself as a top stage attraction.

He was a very successful radio performer, his sit-com Ray’s A Laugh running from 1949 to 1961. A regular on the radio show Does The Team Think, with the likes of Jimmy Edwards and Arthur Askey, it was an ideal vehicle for his skill at ad lobbing. His TV series, The Ted Ray Show, was less successful and his future TV appearances were mainly as a panel member on such shows as Joker’s Wild.

He made some half dozen films, the last of which was Carry On Teacher [1959] in which he played the headmaster. He was lined up for more Carry On roles but ABC, who had him under contract, refused permission for him to take part.

Both his sons, Andrew and Robin, made careers in the entertainment world. Ted Ray died from a heart attack in 1977 aged 71.

28 Apollo Street L4

The Olden's family's first house on moving to Liverpool in 1912. This photo, taken in 1969, shows numbers 16-36 Apollo Street. the street no longer exists.

5 Oakfield Road L4


Ted Ray published an autobiography entitled Raising the Laughs [Werner Laurie 1952] which devotes a considerable portion to his early life in Liverpool. His radio show Ray's A Laugh has been aired on Radio 4 Extra in recent years. The Wikipedia entry is a bit thin but probably the best summary online.