Remembering Lionel Blair

A message about our patron, veteran actor, dancer and entertainer Lionel Blair on his birthday, 12th December.

This article is 30 months old


On what would have been his 93rd birthday, we celebrate the legacy of the much-loved entertainer and once patron of our charity, Lionel Blair.

Born Henry Lionel Ogus, Lionel grew up in Stamford Hill, north London after his family moved from Quebec Canada. He enjoyed a successful seven-decade career on stage and delighted generations of families on the small screen.

Starting on stage, Lionel would be catapulted to fame in the 1960s, thanks to his stellar performances at variety shows as part of a dance troupe. It was during these early years of his career that he showcased his exceptional stage talent and command of an audience, most notably during his famous dance-off with Sammy Davis Jnr in 1961.

He gained greater national prominence in the 1970s, presenting the popular quiz show Name That Tune and was a team captain on Give Us a Clue from 1979 until the early 1990s. Later, TV and film credits would include The Real Marigold Hotel, The Limping Man and Absolute Beginners.

On this, his birthday, we especially want to celebrate his work outside of the sphere of entertainment. As an almost 125-year-old organisation, we remember Lionel Blair fondly as a generous and passionate patron, fundraiser and ambassador for Turn2us, (formerly Elizabeth Finn Care).

As our patron, he dedicated countless hours to raising the profile of our organisation through his public appearances and fundraising efforts, which meant we could support more people and families facing financial crisis. Highlights of his generosity included a tea party fundraiser he hosted at Fortnum & Mason, compering a quiz at a staff away day, and reaching out to his famous friends to garner more support for the charity.

Lionel held the charity close to his heart and was keen that more people knew what support we could offer.

“They (Turn2us) help those who find themselves with nothing to live on, despite having worked all their lives. It's frightening and can happen to anybody at any time. Humble beginnings are something I can relate to from personal experience. When I was a kid, my dad, who was a barber, died. My family was lucky because all the barber shops in the area put together a collection, and that was what we lived on until I got a job and could help to support them myself. There are people living beneath the poverty line in the 21st century, through no fault of their own - to help people like that is terribly important to me.” – Lionel Blair (interview in Great British Life, 2011).

The teams here at Turn2us and Elizabeth Finn Homes were saddened to hear of Lionel Blair’s passing this November 4th and wish to share our deepest condolences with his family and loved ones.

Members of our organisation who met Lionel remember him as a man of great kindness, charm, humour and always being delighted to meet everyone he came across. We remember him fondly and wish to express our immense gratitude for his generosity towards our organisation, passion for the cause and commitment to those we exist to serve.

Our thoughts are with his whole family during this sad time.