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DOUGLAS THOMAS (1917-2007)

 William Morton remembers a dear Questors friend.

Born in Barry, South Wales, Douglas worked in the Foreign Office, where he met Muriel, his dear wife for 66 years.

He joined the original "tin hutters" in 1949. Mike Green, who joined in 1950, remembers his first acting performance as the son who gets shot in Juno and The Paycock (1953). The Times mentioned him by name for his part in a new play, whose title temporarily escapes everyone! His last acting appearance was in 1991 in Ayckbourn's Sisterly Feelings as the out-of-breath, therefore speechless, elderly major completing an annual cross-country run; the two various endings of the play depend on the toss of a coin by one of the actresses. This seems an appropriate, though mute, swan song, as Dougie was physically very active, cycling and playing a lot of tennis; both Mike Green and Neville Simpson (plus ex-mayor Margaret Lord) remember him admiration.

Dougie was also a keen walker. This activity implemented a strong social conscience as Carla Field (a student in Tin Hut days) remembers him as the only other Questors member on the CND and anti-Apartheid marches. A supporter of the Liberals, he was also a conscientious objector during the war and his knowledge of Italian helped with liaison work with Italian prisoners of war. He later continued to improve his Italian and learned Spanish. Jill Gee, who preceded Alice Pennicott in the office and is a longtime family friend and neighbour from their 50-odd years in Bellevue Road, proudly remembers a dinner party with Muriel and Dougie when he beautifully quoted substantial chunks of Dante.

Dougie was mainly occupied with the all-important Front of House duties, including the numbering of the extra seats whenever the playhouse was set up in the round.

Having known Muriel since the mid 60s, when I took my children to the Questors Young Musicians Club at Montpelier Road on Saturday mornings (where she was a founder organiser), I encountered her again in the 80s at the theatre where she was often prompting as well as being archivist. I volunteered my services as a steward and was duly coached by Dougie. He was Front of House Manager for 20 years until the difficulties of increasing hearing loss (how I sympathise!) compelled him to hand over to Eric Lister, under whose tutelage I became an FHM. On several subsequent occasions Dougie helped me as a steward, and Dorothy Dent, that stalwart Lady of the Hotplate, affectionately remembers "mini battles" when she still had a queue of customers awaiting drinks and Dougie wanted to get the audience back into the playhouse "on time!"

His interest in Italian and the theatre was also a part of his love and appreciation of opera. Their grandson, Gareth, is now a sound engineer at the Royal Opera House. Carla also tenderly remembers travelling to work on the District Line with Dougie when he confided: "Before I leave home, I see to the boiler and take Muriel her breakfast in bed!"

Five years ago Dougie and Muriel moved to Winslow in Northamptonshire to be nearer their daughter and Dougie was made an honorary life member of The Questors. We trust that Muriel will inherit this.

It is with great regret that we mourn his passing and send our warmest sincere condolences to Muriel, Glyn, Myfanwy, Rhoda and all their families. But let us also celebrate his kindness, skill and warm personality. We, and The Questors Theatre, are the richer for having known Dougie.

1949 Othello
1950 Paradise Street
1950 The Winter's Tale
1952 Testament of Cresseid
1953 Clérambard
1953 Juno and The Paycock
1954 A Jig for a Gypsy
1954 King John
1956 Gilgamesh
1957 The Government Inspector
1957 Henry V
1958 The Long Spoon
1961 Henry IV Part 1
1963 The Devil's Disciple
1963 The Fire Raisers
1963 Goodness Gracious! Is that Really Me?
1964 One Leg Over the Wrong Wall
1965 Bad Dreams
1965 The Silver King
1991 Sisterly Feelings