VINCENT MCQUEEN (d.2005)
We remember and celebrate a very special Questor and a very dear friend.
Lucy Lloyd (nee McQueen)
Questors was a huge part of Dad's life. As a child, I have vivid memories of Dad making excuses to pop down to Questors on a Sunday morning - to check his pigeon hole/look over a particular costume for a forthcoming play/collect something he'd left in the dressing room. More often than not, it was just an excuse to go down to the Grapevine for a pint or two.
On the occasions I went with him, I remember much hilarity, shaking of hands, kissing of cheeks and general joy. While we may have been the only two sitting there to begin with (possibly because we arrived as the bar opened?!), by the time we left we were surrounded by many of his friends.
I do also remember his theatrical performances, of course - although I could never quite escape the fact he was my Dad on stage. For me, the strongest memory of Dad and Questors has to be the Sunday morning laughter in the Grapevine.
Vincent’s version was that as he was also slinking away he heard my voice (in the middle of a mime) and also gained hope from my audition since he realised at least one person was worse than him.
At any rate, we passed and were instantly cast in King John, starting a friendship that lasted until his death a few weeks ago. I soon realized Vincent’s versatility when I found myself doing a duet of If I Could Plant a Tiny Seed of Love in the Garden of Your Heart with him at an after-show party. In those days there were far more activities of that sort and Vincent’s skill at rhyme and song-and-dance was constantly in use. He had an extraordinary facility for witty rhymes.
He wrote, or co-wrote, some half dozen shows for The Questors and appeared in them as well as a score of others. Among his memorable performances were Horatio in Hamlet (1955), Bulldog Drummond (1962), Captain Plume in The Recruiting Officer (1975) and The Hired Man (1988). Despite ill-health in recent years Vincent’s energy appeared unceasing and he played a full part in the exhausting spectacular of Nicholas Nickleby in 2003. His acting career was crowned only last year, with a poignant performance as Firs in The Cherry Orchard. He knew he was ill and perhaps sensed it might be his last performance at The Questors.
Vincent would have done even more, but for being regular director of Southall Operatic Society and running his own music-hall group of Questors who brought much pleasure to sick and elderly people in hospitals and homes throughout the area.
Indeed, Vincent simply gave happiness to all who knew him. His daughter Lucy told me he once wrote to the son of a relative who had died, “I can’t help thinking of him without breaking into a smile because he was a person whose company was always such a joy.” What better epitaph for Vincent himself?
My most regular work with Vincent was probably with the music hall group he ran for years. He was a real trouper. We went all over the place doing music halls for charitable organisaions or for anyone who wanted us. Vincent organised the programme, rehearsed the cast, MC'd the the show and, of course, put over a song himself in his light, free and easy manner. We told the same old jokes every time and though the cast may have groaned, he always charmed the audience. They laughed, and we forgave him.
He usually introduced me as " A man of many parts, most of them unobtainable!" Well,Vincent was a man of many, many parts. In addition to The Questors and music hall, he was a busy member of Southall Operatic. He had a passionate interest in opera - particularly at ENO - and in art too. Passions I shared with him.
We used to meet professionally when we were both head teachers in Ealing and lots of parents have told me what a fine, caring and concerned head he was.
Bente and I were once on holiday with Joan and Vincent in Burgundy where, as well as our shared interest in French wine, I discovered Vincent's other weakness - for shopping in supermarkets, especially foreign ones. So for years after we sent each other holiday postcards, extolling the virtues of the local supermarkets.
Vincent has left a lot of gaps in my life, and in yours too I'm sure. I shall always miss him.
Jenny Hicks (Ambrose)
I joined The Questors in 1962 after being told about the theatre by the Manager of Leicester Little Theatre where I had been a member. I chose Ealing as somewhere to live because of this and it was also near to my new job in London and I ventured down one afternoon. I was greeted by Tony Worth on the Box Office wearing a very dashing camel coat and went to see a production of Epitaph to George Dillon which I think was in the Stan Room but was so good it reinforced my desire to join.
Then somehow I got involved (you know how you do) in an after show party where I have clear memories of Mike Green and John Howard doing their ventriloquist act and I met Vincent who was scouting round for people to take part in his schools tour.
Schools was something very special which, unless you had been involved, you would never understand. There were two teams doubling up on parts so that if you were playing Olivia one night your costume had to fit your opposite number which of course it rarely did. Vincent decided on a topic (comedy, tragedy etc) and chose excerpts from various plays to illustrate it to the children at various local schools. I particularly remember Jimmy Saunders' Double Double which rumour has it was the forerunner of On The Buses. I know I was a conductress who eloped with a driver on a double-decker bus and it all took place in the canteen at the depot so props had to provide fish and chips every night for an authentic meal. The children so near to us in the round tcouldn't do otherwise than be very jealous of our supper.
It was wonderful being being led by Vincent who of course, being a Headmaster of some standing, knew all the staff at the schools we visited. Sometimes the domestic science teachers did us proud but more often we were pleased to have had the cold fish and chips.
I met so many friends because of Vincent choosing me to take part although I think he might have been short of touring players at the time! It was also when the theatre was being built and there was such excitement in the air and a wonderful friendly feeling. I went on to help Tony Clayton on a membership drive with my (now) husband Peter and we also ran the Prize Draw which had been done so successfully for many years by Alan Drake.
Out thoughts are with Joan at a very sad time but I personally will always be grateful to Vincent for a "start" at The Questors which soon became a second home. Indeed, he will be sadly missed.
John Griffiths (Francis)
He was a dear, dear man, and our club is the poorer for his passing. Cheers, mate. You were a pal.
It was then I remember becoming most aware of his quite extraordinary integrity. What he had done by my age was not only what his country expected of him, but what he expected of himself being captured in enemy territory as much a part of life as anything else. He told how the family who turned him over to the authorities gave him a piece of their only bread to keep him going on the march toward captivity. But the bread was stale, and what Vincent characteristically recalled was the embarrassment he felt trying, surreptitiously, to dispose of a mouldy object given kindly. From anyone else it would seem extraordinary, but from Vincent such instinctive concern for other peoples’ feelings even those of a German family turning him over was second (indeed, even first) nature.
Larkin tells us: “what will survive of us is love.” But some people manage to leave even more, and Vincent is among them. I’ll remember him not just for his great and well-known public talents, but because of those other talents which he possessed in such abundance his talent for friendship, for laughter and for quite outstanding goodness.
Whenever I met Vincent at the theatre he always greeted me with great affection and that is how I shall remember him - with great affection.
Richard Deacon (Student Group 38)