THE New York Times of April 14, 1939, reported that the Cunard White Star liner Aquitania was due that evening from Southampton via Cherbourg. Among its passengers were a major, an archbishop, an explorer returning from Tibet and Nepal ... and Will Fyffe, who was travelling with his wife (main image) to America, where he was to appear in a film.

Eight years later, however, Fyffe was dead, aged just 62, having fallen from the window of his St Andrews hotel, where he had been recuperating after an ear operation.

Fyffe, who is seen above in a recording of ‘Shipmates Ashore’, was described in a Glasgow Herald obituary as having a “genius for tragic pathos as indefinable in its own line as the sadly sweet fantasy in [J.M.] Barrie’s plays.”

An actor from an early age, he was by 17 playing Polonius and other Shakespearean parts. As a budding comedian on the variety stage he tried his hand at writing sketches and songs. Two of the latter – ‘I Belong to Glasgow’ and ‘I’m 94 Today’ – he had intended to sell to the music-hall stars Neil Kenyon and Harry Lauder, “but when a revue in which he had a place was doing badly at a Glasgow theatre he went on one night and sang these two songs. They took the theatre by storm, and a few days later he was approached by a London agent.

"A London engagement followed, and thereafter Fyffe blossomed forth as one of the most popular comedians of the day”. He toured Canada, South Africa, Australia and, on several occasions, America. He appeared in several films in the 1930s. He was in America when war broke out. He could have remained fully employed there but chose to return to Britain to “keep the home fires burning” by resuming his profession in the halls.

Tomorrow: More Will Fyffe