A tribute to Dolly, queen of comedy

The Express & Star is given an exclusive glimpse of the blue plaque in honour of Dolly Allen. Ray Hingley talks to Cathy Spencer about the Queen of Black Country Comedy.

The Express & Star is given an exclusive glimpse of the blue plaque in honour of Dolly Allen. Ray Hingley talks to Cathy Spencer about the Queen of Black Country Comedy.

When Dolly Allen looked out of Ray Hingley's car window as they passed through Cannock she couldn't believe her eyes.Used to the Industrial, cramped Black Country the pensioner was surprised to suddenly be surrounded by fields and trees.

Ray says: "Whenever we crossed into Staffordshire Dolly would always say the same thing 'Where am we?' and I would always tell her that we were coming close to the Welsh border.

"She would always reply with the same thing 'Fancy living out here and being short of butter'.

"Dolly was used to being surrounded by friendly neighbours and having a shop on every corner - she couldn't imagine why anyone would want to live out in the countryside."

With her trademark straw hat with its turkey feather and her catchphrase of "Hello, my luvvers" Dolly Allen was known for her Black Country humour and timeless, deadpan delivery.

Eighteen years ago Dolly passed away, aged 84, and now a special tribute show is being organised to coincide with the unveiling of a blue plaque in her honour at the Civic Hall in Brierley Hill.

The show is planned for June 22 and will raise funds for the Mary Stevens Hospice, Stourbridge, and the St Anthony's Cheshire Home, Penn.

"Harry Harrison and myself ran the Black Country Night Out show for 22 years and Dolly was a big part of it," says Ray, aged 22, from Amblecote in Stourbridge.

"Off-stage Dolly was a quiet person. She used to sit in silence in my car on the way to shows - and would never tell us how old she was.

"One day I dropped her off at her house in Tividale and at around midnight she phoned me and said 'Ray, I've been burgled'.

"By this time she was making quite a bit of money but she used to like to look after it all herself in her house.

"When I got to Dolly's house the police were questioning her and when they asked her how old she was my ears pricked up - I couldn't believe she was in her 80s."

Dolly Allen was born Doris Evelyn Baugh, at Wordsley Workhouse, on April 9, 1906, and was orphaned just 10 days later.

She was adopted by William and Elizabeth Parker, who renamed her Dorothy, and she grew up at 78 Stourbridge Road, Halesowen.

She met her husband Leonard Allen while working at Hackett Brothers' nut and bolt works in Victoria Street and they were married in 1926 at Stourbridge Register Office.

Through the 1960s and early 70s she appeared at clubs and shows in the Black Country and by that time she had left Hackett's and was working as a cleaner.

It was at the age of 69, in 1975, that Ray Hingley invited Dolly to join the team of the Black Country Night Out.

She was an instant hit and from that came records and appearances on television and radio.

Ray says he remembers when The Black Country Night Out went on tour to Spain in 1978 entertaining the ex-pat Black Country communities.

"After the show we decided to have some drinks," says Ray.

"We ended up staying out until 4am and Dolly was determined to keep up with us - she was in her 70s.

"We played a few joked on Dolly over the years. On the bar at one venue there used to be goldfish in a large bowl.

"One night Harry Harrison brought along some jelly sweets, which looked like goldfish.

"He wet the jelly with his beer and then waggled it around in the air and called Dolly.

"When she looked over he quickly put the goldfish in his mouth and gulped it down.

"She yelled at him 'Yow dirty vermin, he never did anything to yow' and we couldn't convince her that it was a joke.

"One time we performed at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton and Dolly had her own dressing room with a bathroom.

"We put someone's shoes poking out of the shower and for the whole show she believed that someone was in her bathroom.

"They were good times and I'm pleased this blue plaque will finally be in place at the Brierley Hill Civic Hall where she made so many people laugh."