Pitkin’s PA

Main Meeting – March 2013

Pitkin’s PA – My Life with Sir Norman Wisdom

At our March meeting, Sue Benwell talked to us about Sir Norman Wisdom.

Sue gave us an entertaining and interesting overview of Norman’s history. Brought up in London, he and his brother were raised in severe poverty by their father, their mother having walked out on the family when he was very young. They were subjected to much ill-treatment, and eventually fostered out with different families in Kent.

Norman eventually ran away, aged 13, and managed to get a job as an errand boy for a grocer. There followed a variety of jobs including waiter, bell boy and cabin boy in the Merchant Navy. He eventually returned to London and enlisted in the King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster). However, having met up with his mother, she persuaded him to let her buy him out. Shortly afterwards he re-enlisted as a drummer boy in the 10th Royal Hussars, where he received an education and a number of skills that were to stand him in good stead in the future. He discovered he had a talent for entertainment and determined to pursue a career in that industry. Leaving the Army in 1946, he made his debut as a professional entertainer at the age of 31 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Norman’s rise to the top was amazingly fast and his career began in the theatre, where he developed the somewhat hapless character of “Norman Pitkin”, that was to dominate his future prolific film career. Television success followed and he finally retired from the entertainment industry in 2004, on his 90th birthday.

As a tribute to Norman, his PA for nine years, Anne Axe, asked Sue Benwell to ghost-write a book for her entitled Pitkin’s PA – My Life with Sir Norman Wisdom; sadly, he died before it was published, but it stands as a testament to a remarkable man and tells what it was like living and working with the comedian.

Sue Benwell’s account of Norman Wisdom’s rise from street urchin to a knight of the realm, was fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed by us all.