Paul Shane was born George Frederick Speight on 19 June 1940 near Rotherham, South Yorkshire. After leaving school he started work at Silverwood Colliery where he impressed his fellow miners with his singing at the coalface. He also spent his spare time as an amateur stand-up comedian.
In 1967 he injured his back when he slipped on the soap in the pithead baths and he was pensioned off aged just 27. He spent all of his £180 compensation on a microphone and sound system and made the decision to become a professional entertainer.
Initially performing under the stage name of Paul Stephens he was paid just £1.50 for his first club booking in Rotherham. When Equity pointed out that there was another entertainer with the same name he chose the name Paul Shane, after the Alan Ladd Western Shane.
Paul had a successful career in the clubs and pubs, mainly around the pit villages of the north of England. Some of his show highlights were a version of My Way which he sang in the style of Charles Laughton impersonating Quasimodo and a hip wiggling rendition of The Green Green Grass of Home by Tom Jones, which had clubs erupting into hysterical laughter.
After several years performing his stand-up act in pubs and clubs and a number of small TV parts, in February 1975 Paul was runner up on show 23 of the third series of New Faces, losing out to the group Son of a Gun by 17 points. Eighteen months later he was back on television in a drama, written by Brian Glover, called Summer Season which was produced by BBC Birmingham as part of their Second City First play series. Paul played comedian Ricky Avon, one half of a double act with his wife Michelle Grant, played by Rachel Davies. Filmed on location in Blackpool, the 35-minute drama focused on the relationship between Ricky and his wife and her affair with Dave, their roadie, played by Tommy Boyle.
In 1977 Paul played the small part of DJ Dave-the-Rave in Coronation Street and then in 1979 he returned to the show to play Alf Roberts’ Post Office boss Frank Roper. He may have only had a few minutes screen time but watching that night was Jimmy Perry, who realised that evening that his two-year search for an actor to play his new sitcom character Ted Bovis was finally over.
The Croft and Perry comedy hit series Hi-De-Hi! was first broadcast on the BBC on New Years Day 1980. In a 45 minute pilot episode viewers were introduced the staff of Maplins Holiday Camp including resident compere Ted Bovis, played by Paul Shane. It was over a year before the first series was broadcast but the six episodes were such a huge success that the BBC repeated the whole series, in peak time, within weeks of the final episode airing. The successful show ran for a total 58 episodes over nine series, with the final episode broadcast in January 1988, making household names of many of the main cast, which included Su Pollard, Ruth Madoc, Jeffrey Holland and Simon Cadell.
The theme song to the show, Hi-De-Hi! (Holiday Rock), written by Jimmy Perry, was sung by Ken Barrie on the opening title but Paul Shane sang on the version used on the closing credits. A single was released by the BBC and it made the Top 40 in May 1981, with Paul and the Yellowcoats appearing on Top of the Pops.
Such was the popularity of the TV show the BBC aired series three and four back-to-back, the only time the BBC have done this with one of their first run shows. The show was also made into a stage musical, featuring most of the major cast from the TV series, which played in Bournemouth for a 17-week season in the summer of 1983.
The year before a production by young impresario Nick Thomas (who won series three (22) of New Faces with his Tommer Puppets act) in Scarborough, starring Paul Shane and Su Pollard, was billed as “The stars of BBC TV’s smash hit Hi-De-Hi!” The show sparked a dispute with the TV writers who had concerns that the “misleading” and “outrageous” posters for the show would harm the potential for the stage show they were planning.
In December 1981 Paul was ambushed in London’s Covent Garden by Eamonn Andrews as he was the next subject of the famous big red book of the This Is Your Life TV series. Paul was joined on the show by his wife Dory and his three daughters and many of his Hi-De-Hi! co-stars were also in attendance as were writers David Croft and Jimmy Perry. He also received a filmed tribute from his former workmates at the Silverwood Colliery.
In 1982 Paul was the subject of an episode of the BBC series Comic Roots. Following the episodes Les Dawson’s Lancashire, Roy Hudd’s Croydon and Irene Handl’s London was Paul Shane’s Rotherham.
In the 1980s Paul appeared in many Christmas pantomime shows around the country including;
- 1981/82 – Babes In The Wood (Birmingham – Alexandra Theatre)
- 1982/83 – Dick Whittington (Bristol – Hippodrome Theatre) with Ruth Madoc, Jeffrey Holland and Barry Howard from Hi-De-Hi!
- 1985/86 – Sleeping Beauty (Sunderland Empire) with Don Estelle from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum
- 1986/87 – Robinson Crusoe (Nottingham Theatre Royal)
- 1987/88 – Dick Whittington (Bournemouth Pavilion) with Andrew Sachs, Maggie Moone and Denise Nolan
- 1989/90 – Aladdin (Manchester Palace Theatre) with Paul Nicholas, Eartha Kitt and Sylvestor McCoy
No soon as Hi-De-Hi! closed the Hawaiian Ballroom doors for the final time another Croft and Perry comedy was on our television screens and three of the main cast members from the Maplins Holiday Camp were cast in the lead roles. You Rang M’Lord? was set in the 1920s and saw Paul Shane play conniving butler, Alf Stokes, Su Pollard was cast as his daughter, and the housemaid, and Jeffrey Holland as the footman to Lord Meldrum, played by Donald Hewlett (It Ain’t Half Hot Mum). The show ran for four series from 1988 to 1993. The Stage newspaper described Paul Shane’s performance as a ‘revelation’ and stated, “thanks to the comedy know how of the Croft-Perry duo, and the commanding presence of Paul Shane, the programme works and as pure, undemanding light entertainment.”
In 1995 Paul Shane, Jeffrey Holland and Su Pollard teamed up once again to star in Oh Doctor Beeching!, the latest comedy from David Croft and his then new writing partner Richard Spendlove.
Set in the 1960s at the sleepy country railway station of Hatley, during the time the Minister of Transport was planning to close down a large proportion of the national rail network. Paul Shane played ticket collector Jack Skinner and Sherrie Hewson played his wife, Fay, who ran the buffet. Su Pollard played Ethel the booking office clerk and Jeffrey Holland played Station Master, Cecil Parkin. The show ran for two ten episode series and at it’s peak was attracting around 11 million viewers per episode.
After a trio of successful comedies Paul had a number of roles in recurring drama series, including Doctors, Holby City. In 2004 he appeared in Emmerdale, playing the character of Solomon Dingle.
Paul Shane died aged 72-years-old surrounded by close family at a hospice in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, on 16 May 2013 after a short illness.