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Geoffrey Rundle: six decades as a king of panto
Keighley panto king Geoffrey Rundle died earlier this month after a long fight against cancer. David Knights looks back at his life in the local theatre.
Geoffrey Rundle's name was one of the most recognisable in Keighley thanks to his involvement in Keighley Amateurs pantomimes.
Many thousands of people have laughed at the scripts he and Keith Marsden wrote half a century ago and updated for each new production.
The pair started as teenagers in 1943 when, already a comedy double act, they were asked to write a pantomime for St John's Church in Ingrow.
Dick Whittington was the first of several church pantos through the 1940s and early 1950s, the run punctuated only by Geoffrey’s National Service and teacher training.
In 1965 the pair introduced panto to the Amateurs’ patrons, with Jack and the Beanstalk beginning a long tradition that saw Geoffrey playing the dame and Keith the sidekick.
Since then a Marsden and Rundle script has been used every time except one -- in 1988 immediately after the pair stood down from performing in the pantos.
In 2007 the Lord Mayor of Bradford hosted a civic reception at City Hall in honour of the pair's 50th Keighley panto production.
In 2008 the National Operatic and Dramatic Association began licensing the scripts to other societies as far afield as Chester-le-Street and the Republic of Ireland. One has even been performed in North Carolina.
Keith recalls the writing method he and Geoffrey used, Keith suggesting jokes and routines out loud while Geoffrey preferred to write things down in longhand.
Keith said: "He was a great one for letting the ideas bubble around -- when he said 'yes' to something you knew it would work."
Laycock man Keith said that although he and Geoffrey were pals -- Keith was Geoffrey's best man when he married Joy in 1955 -- they didn't live in each other's pocket.
Geoffrey, who lived in Utley, found time for many other activities – among them painting, walking, caravanning, watching Westerns and actively supporting Keighley Rugby League Club.
His "day job" was teaching maths, first at Silsden Secondary Modern School then from 1971 to his retirement in 1987 at South Craven School.
Geoffrey was the Keighley Amateurs chairman from 1972 to 1997, and has since been the president. His last stage appearance was in 1993 alongside his son Mark.
Mark said that although his father had lived with prostrate cancer for four years he remained active in the Amateurs, only reducing his involvement last year after losing the use of his legs.
Geoffrey fell ill a few weeks ago, and only days before his death summoned Mark to his bedside to talk about something important.
And to Geoffrey it was very important -- he wanted to know what had happened at the previous night's Amateurs committee meeting.