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The Barn Theatre, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

George Blee

George participated in 72 productions at the Barn.

We received the sad news of George’s death in hospital on 7th January from his niece Sue. George was being treated for a fall and contracted Covid. He seemed to be recovering but then succumbed to the virus.

His first mention in the Club archives is for an appearance in The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew, our 1970 Christmas production. He dallied with several other plays and quite a number of House Manager duties but it’s ironic that, although these early forays included this Christmas piece, several comedies and a musical, his preference for serious drama and the classics was revealed after he played in Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending in 1974 and The Merchant of Venice in 1977. He was in every one of the ten Shakespeares in our programme up to 2003, highlighted by his Malvolio in 1980.

He continued to be House Manager on many occasions as well, and was an imposing and reliable presence there. He exhibited his range as Chanticleer the cockerel in The Canterbury Tales, doubling as King Arthur, in 1988, and played The Common Man in A Man for All Seasons in 2005. Along the way he directed a festival play and Born in the Gardens in the main house in 1988.

He also had a long career as a professional extra in the film world: the man who dropped the suitcases in Love Actually and in the Windmill Theatre audience in Mrs Henderson Presents, among many others. He also played for The Hertfordshire Players at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall.

A good companion with a great love of theatre, George was welcome and friendly company, and a member who was not afraid to offer his opinions if he felt that all was not as it should be in the organisation of the Club. It was our loss when he retired to Bournemouth in 2016.

We offer our condolences to his family and friends.

George’s Eulogy – 26th January 2021

George was one of 4 brothers, being second eldest to Peter with 2 younger brothers, John and Edward. They were all born in London in the late 1920’s to mid-1930’s and were evacuated to Kings Walden at the start of the Second World War. At Peter’s insistence, they remained together which made it difficult to find a family who could take all 4 of them in. One such family lived in a large country house called King’s Walden Bury and they were welcomed there to be looked after by the family nanny, Mrs Mellors. They all returned to London when safe to do so.

Edward, the youngest brother, was the only one to have children and George became Uncle to Susan, Patricia, Michael, Christine and Andrew.

George remained living at home with his parents and moved with them to Welwyn Garden City in the late 50s early 60s. He was shortly followed by Edward and wife Betty, with their young family. George eventually became a Great Uncle to 8 children and Great Great Uncle to a further 8 children.

George was a keen tennis player in his younger days, often going to Wimbledon and continued to follow tennis on TV. He was also a keen skier and it was during a skiing trip one winter that he met his dear friend Marguerite. Their friendship continued for many years and they enjoyed holidays, theatre trips and of course skiing, often accompanied by his younger brother John. He missed Marguerite terribly when she passed away-in 2018 but the grieving started before then as dementia robbed her of her memories with no recogniti0n of friends or family! George found this particularly distressing. He would often talk about going on holiday or to the theatre, but always said it wouldn’t be the same without her. She was a great loss.

One of George’s greatest loves was the theatre. He was a member of the lslingtan Players whilst living in London and joined the Barn Theatre after moving to Welwyn Garden City. His first acting role was in 1970 in a Christmas production. We remember it well. It was a family tradition to visit the theatre to watch Uncle George although it’s fair to say we didn’t always have much of a choice at the time.

He went on to perform in comedies and a musical but his great love was serious drama and the classics. He was in every one of the ten Shakespeare productions in the theatre’s programme up to 2003. He was House Manager on many occasions and was described as an imposing and reliable presence.

He also had a long career as a professional extra in the film world; he was the man who dropped the suitcases in love Actually, and he went on to appear in many other films and TV programmes.

George lived in Welwyn Garden City for nearly 60 years and his fondness for the town and the connections he had there never waned.

In 2016, as his health started to fail and with no relatives nearby he moved to Highcliffe to be close to his 2 nieces, Susan and Patricia. It was a difficult move for him, leaving behind his beloved Welwyn Garden City, but he soon settled into Seward Court in Highcliffe. He retained his independent living but with the comfort and reassurance of knowing that support was available if needed. Fiona, the manager at Seward Court, became a good friend, a source of advice, support and the occasional, metaphorical, clip round the ear when George stepped out of line! The family would like to thank Fiona for all her help and support over the 4+ years George was a resident at Seward Court and for making him so welcome when he moved in.

A regular treat for George was going for a coffee, or more specifically a Cappuccino! Friday morning,

11.00 o’clock at the cafe in Waitrose was a regular. It was during one of his first trips there that he bumped into an acting friend from the past whose mother lived in Mudeford. Meeting with Robert and Doreen on a Friday became a regular event. Sadly, Covid signalled the end of the routines George had become so fond of, including his fondness for visiting coffee shops and having lunch at a local eatery.

George had a wicked sense of humour and could be very theatrical when delivering comments and opinions (not all of which were either politically correct or welcome. However, the overriding sentiment expressed by the many people he shared his life with was his loyalty. They say he was a true friend, very gentle and caring, a good man, someone who lived a simple life and a very important part of the 50+ year history of the Barn Theatre. He would be delighted to know that.

 

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