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My voice is not so much bel canto as can belto

A famous face on British TV for almost 50 years, Sir Harry Secombe was known in later life as the anorak-clad singer who presented Sunday teatime hymn programme, Highway, on ITV.

But his career had begun very differently. Harry made his name and became famous for his giggle, on pioneering alternative radio comedy series, The Goon Show.

Although now largely incomprehensible to anyone below a certain age, the series was hugely influential and Prince Charles is a well-known fan.

Later, Harry began to pursue a musical career. A wonderful tenor singer, he memorably played Mr Bumble in the 1968 film version of Lionel Bart’s musical, Oliver!

Harry’s old Goon Show co-star, Spike Milligan, with whom he’d formed a friendship in the Army during the Second World War, never ceased to be amused at his old chum’s change in direction from comedy to high notes and Highways.

“I spent many years laughing at Harry Secombe's singing,” he ribbed.

“Until somebody told me that it wasn't a joke.”

A benevolent and much loved family man, Harry was said to have lived by his father’s motto: “Always judge a man by the way he treats someone who is of no use to him.”