Quietly celebrating the life of Sunderland comedian Bobby Knoxall

Bobby Knoxall and his wide Diane.
Bobby Knoxall and his wide Diane.
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THE family of Wearside funnyman Bobby Knoxall marked the second anniversary of his death quietly this week.

It was on July 20, 2009, that the 75-year-old, one of Sunderland’s best-loved faces, finally lost his long-running battle with liver and kidney problems.

Wife Diane said today it was a quiet time for recollection.

“We went to his grave but there was no occasion planned this year,” she said.

“It is a funny old time but it is lovely to know he is remembered. My sons go on the computer and people have put a page up with his comments even now.

“One of these days, I will get round to looking at it all.”

Bobby, from Aintree Road, Farringdon, enjoyed more than 50 years in the entertainment business.

He went from selling tomatoes as a barrow boy on a Sunderland bomb site, to appearing in cabaret with Johnny Mathis, Roy Orbison and Louis Armstrong.

He was also well known and respected for his charity work – he received an MBE for services to charity and entertainment in 2004 in recognition of his work to raise more than £1million, including £20,000 for the Grace House Appeal – and remained devoted to his home city despite a career which took him around the world

Bobby, whose real name was Robert McKenna, was born in the East End. Unable to read or write after being expelled from two schools by the age of 12, he got a job as a barrow boy on the bomb site where The Bridges now stands.

He got his break in showbiz as an acrobatic dancer after winning competitions at the Rink Ballroom, in Park Lane, and appeared with rock ‘n’ roll dancers in London, before becoming a vocalist and developing his patter between songs into a comedy act.

He became big on the club circuit, and graduated to some of the top cabaret shows in the UK and abroad, becoming popular in Africa and the Middle East and appearing on bills with Ella Fitzgerald and Jose Feliciano.

The comedian became a mainstay of the Tyne Tees programme What Fettle, and sang SAFC’s 1973 FA Cup Final record Sunderland All The Way.

He survived a couple of heart attacks and bowed out of showbiz, but defied the odds to make a comeback in 2002.

Twitter: @Sunechobiz