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GEORGE SPEAIGHT (1914 - 2005)
Puppeteer and historian whose extensive research led him to write the first definitive history of the Punch & Judy show.
Without George's fine history published in 1970 few of us would know the fascinating history and evolution of our national puppet.
All Punch & Judy Professor's who give talks and lectures freely quote from it, therefore we owe a tremendous debt for all the hard work and research George put into writing this famous, informative and fascinating book.
At his instigation, a plaque was inscribed on the front wall of St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden in 1962, honouring Samuel Pepys, his diary and the first recorded Punch show in England in the year 1662. At the 325th celebration of Pepys’ sighting, George donned wig and costume and acted the part of Samuel Pepys.
George was an honorary member of the Punch & Judy Fellowship and along with his wife Mary, attended many of our festivals and events.
He was a most likeable gentleman, who had a loveable streak of English eccentricity about him as well as a very warm and generous nature. The PJF was proud to have this outstanding puppeteer, historian and writer as a member.
George told me that he first saw Punch & Judy in Hatfield Park when he was about seven years old. He recalled the Punch show very clearly, but sadly not who performed it. This was also at the age when he started to play with Model Theatre, acting out plays, which of course he continued to do all his life.
At the age of about 25, he decided to write a book on the history of Punch & Judy. He began his research by taking out library books that would give him some information, but at that time, 1937, there did not seem to be any books about Punch's history. However, George soon discovered the library of books in the British Museum and all day long he read all sorts of books which he would never have found in his local library.
After the War he returned to the notes he had made some years before, but it soon became obvious to him that he could not write a book about Punch alone; it had to include all the other puppets and so it became 'The History of the English Puppet Theatre' which was finally published in 1955.
Punch occupied a lot of pages in the book but George always felt to some extent that they were rather swamped by the other puppets. Therefore he extracted the Punch pages, added a short chapter on Punch’s foreign cousins, included some colour illustrations and a text of the play. The result was his book “Punch and Judy - A history” published in 1970.
Remembered by Des Turner
President of the Punch & Judy Fellowship