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Article by Sue Waters
Bill Patenall LRAM, ADB, RADA Dip, FLAM
9th August 1928 – 7th October 2010

Bill Patenall
Bill Patenall

William Percival Patenall was born in Rushden and lived in Queen Street with his parents and brother Dick. His Great Grandfathers, Crick and Patenall, had been Wholesale Boot and Shoe Manufacturers in town.

After National Service in the Army, Bill Patenall was trained at RADA and won the Clifford Bax Award for Directing. On leaving the Academy he appeared in seasons for the Arts Council in Repertory and at the Old Vic.
Teacher of speech and drama
A young man

In his heyday
Television appearances included plays, musicals, serials and documentaries. Bill was in over 20 episodes of Dixon of Dock Green and also You are There, Spycatcher, Perchance to Dream and others.

Mr Patenall directed forty shows all over the country and taught speech and drama at Dame Alice Harpur School in Bedford and other schools and colleges.

Work as a drama competition adjudicator took him around Great Britain, Ireland, and Guernsey. For seven years he was peripatetic adjudicator for the R.A.F. He travelled three times to work at the Hong Kong Festival. His philosophy was that “one should always be encouraging”.

Bill examined for several Boards in all aspects of Speech and Drama. He went to Singapore examining and running workshops at Arts Centres for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

In 2000, Mr Patenall was awarded a LAMDA Fellowship in recognition of his 20 years service.

Bill was a well known and well liked Rushden figure. He always supported local theatrical productions and travelled to London when he could to see the ballet or drama there. He was a member of the local History Society and the Pensioner’s Parliament.

Mr Patenall visited Rushden Library every morning, to read “The Guardian” newspaper and photocopy the crossword to complete at home.

Bill Patenall (LRAM, ADB, RADA(DIP)) – A Eulogy

Bill went to Wellingborough Grammar School after passing the 11 plus exam at Newton Road Junior School.

It was obvious from the early days that he had a wonderful sense of humour. This was clear from and incident in the first English lesson he had with Dr Alfred Jackson, who was bemoaning the fact there were very few Library facilities in the area. “We are!” came an interjection from a boy at the back of the class. “You are what?” asked the puzzled master. “We are got a Library in Rushden.”

There might have followed an explanation of the difference between the verbs “To be and to have” but instead the reply came “Congratulations, I am both relieved and surprised that you ARE got a library in Rushden.”

Dr Jackson immediately became his favourite teacher and played a significant role in Bill’s love of Drama and the spoken word.

Such was his enthusiasm that Bill would catch the early bus for Birch’s Bus Garage and buy a 5 shilling return to London to see three productions – 2pm matinee, 5pm and 8pm and arrive back in Rushden in the early hours.

He spent his National Service in Nottingham as a corporal in Royal Army Service Corps and then on his demob in March 1949 he was successful in gaining a scholarship in the ROYAL ACADEMY OF DRAMATIC ART. There he won the Clifford Bax prize for production – a talent which was to prove useful in his later career.

After a stint at the Bristol Old Vic, he appeared on Television in serials, plays, documentaries and musicals including “Gentle Flame” starring Julie Andrews!

As a visiting producer for N.O.D.A, he taught and lectured in schools and colleges throughout Great Britain. He was a lecturer for the American Air Force as well as examiner and adjudicator for the English Speaking Board.

Bill would have made an excellent substitute of Simon Cowell as a judge on the X-FACTOR. Invariably, he would spot the eventual winner during the opening program of the series.

He wasn’t computer literate. He didn’t need to be … it was all stored in an amazing memory which could recall every shop-keeper in the High Street in Rushden, from Peter Crisp in the south to the Queen Victoria Hotel in the north.

Bill could tell you the names of literally hundreds of Rushden people … where and when they were married … the names and ages of their children ... and whether or not they were “CHURCH OR CHAPEL”!!

In more recent years, Bill suffered greatly as the many cancers consumed his body. But, never once did he complain and had nothing but praise for the superb doctors and nurses who comforted him.

Marshall Martin – Bill’s lifelong friend.

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