Harry Corbett

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Harry Corbett
Born(1918-01-28)28 January 1918
Died17 August 1989(1989-08-17) (aged 71)
Weymouth, Dorset, England
  • Puppeteer
  • magician
  • television presenter
  • stage presenter
Years active1940s–1981
Spouse(s)Marjorie Corbett (1944 - 1989)
ChildrenMatthew Corbett
David Corbett

Harry Corbett OBE[1] (28 January 1918 – 17 August 1989) was an English puppeteer, magician and television and stage presenter, who is best known as the creator of the glove puppet character Sooty in 1948.


Corbett was born in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, to James W. Corbett, a coal miner, and his wife Florence, née Ramsden.

A former electrician, deafness in one ear precluded Corbett from pursuing his musical ambitions to become a concert pianist, although he played the piano in the Guiseley fish and chip restaurant owned by his mother's brother Harry Ramsden. His parents had a fish and chip business in Guiseley called Springfield, which remains open and is now known as Midgley's.[2]

In order to entertain his children while on holiday in Blackpool in 1948, he bought the original yellow bear glove puppet, then called Teddy, in a novelty shop on the end of the resort's North Pier for seven shillings and six pence (7s/6d) (equivalent 37½p). Later he used soot to blacken its ears and nose, hence the name "Sooty".

His first appearance with the silent Sooty was in a 1952 BBC TV show, Talent Night. He was given a part in Peter Butterworth's TV show Saturday Special. He soon had his own show and was a regular favourite throughout the 1950s and '60s. His show combined simple magic tricks with slapstick comedy in which Sooty usually poured liquid over or attacked Corbett.

After he suffered a heart attack at Christmas 1975, his younger son, Peter (stage name Matthew), took over, buying out his father for £35,000.[citation needed] However he did make occasional appearances on 'The Sooty Show' for several years with his son. Harry continued his one-man stage show after he gave up his television appearances, and he died in his sleep on 17 August 1989, after playing to a capacity audience at Weymouth Pavilion in Weymouth, Dorset.

Personal life[edit]

In 1988, he was the subject of This Is Your Life, commemorating forty years in the entertainment industry and the debut of Sooty. He married Marjorie ('Tobes') Hodgson in 1944. Corbett and his wife lived in the Dorset village of Child Okeford for most of their married life. He had a younger brother, Les, a saxophonist, whom Corbett played duets with, and would sometimes appear on The Sooty Show.

He was a Freemason under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England.[3] He was initiated in 1951 in Chevin Lodge No. 6848 in West Yorkshire. He became the lodge organist.[4] The lodge still meets at Otley.


  • "Izzy wizzy, let's get busy"
  • "Bye bye everybody! Bye bye!"


When Prime minister Harold Wilson wished to have Steptoe and Son actor Harry H. Corbett awarded an OBE, the middle initial "H" was lost in the bureaucratic process, and the award went to Harry Corbett instead.[5] Both were awarded the OBE on 1 January 1976, Harry Corbett being cited "for charitable services".[6]


  1. ^ Television Heaven:Sooty
  2. ^ "Guiseley chip shop wraps up place in TV show". Retrieved 11 May 2008. (Wharfedale Observer)
  3. ^ "Famous Freemasons". United Grand Lodge of England. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  4. ^ Robert Lomas. "I'm a Freemason, and the discrimination against us has to stop". The Independent. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  5. ^ The Honours Game, Gyles Brandreth
  6. ^ "Viewing Page 10 of Issue 46777". London-gazette.co.uk. 30 December 1975. Archived from the original on 6 January 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012.