Tribute to Douglas Simmonds

DOUGLAS SIMMONDS 1958 - 2011

Dave Anderson as asked me to put together a small tribute to a man we all knew and loved as Doughnut from Double Deckers, this man of course was Douglas Simmonds.

I first got to know Doug about 2 1/2 years ago as a result of Facebook. I spent many evenings talking to Doug about Double Deckers, our childhoods, our adult lives and about issues affecting our private lives often into the early hours. In June 2010 I was attending a fans Gathering of the 70s comedy "On The Buses". I managed to persuade Doug to attend and indeed he did. The Hammer Film versions and DD were both filmed in the Borehamwood area.

When Doug arrived he was mobbed by fans for autographs and pictures. He spent then spent ages talking to myself and Rob Hickey, a man who knows loads about many programmes filmed in the area including On The Buses and The Double Deckers.

We took Doug to a school in the area where one of the Double Deckers episodes was filmed and we spent sometime talking about DD. Doug actually claimed he didn't act, he just played himself.
Before leaving Doug gave me some Double Deckers memorabilia including a Song Sheet of the Theme Music and a Christmas Card from the show. Following the meeting we stayed friends and on the 15th March the great... gentle man passed away at the young age of 52.

I cant say I knew him well but what I can say is I will treasure our meeting and our private conversations on Facebook forever. RIP Doug, sadly missed but remembered fondly by all his family, friends and Double Deckers Fans.

Gary Crossley

 


Doug first contacted me in 1995 when he introduced himself and expressed interest in the DD website I had started. He sent me a box of photos he received from producer Roy Simpson to share with DD fans. He told me about some special moments on the set of the DD including a surprise birthday party for him on the day they were filming the episode, "Happy Haunting". As an adult he was very surprised by how many people still recognized him. I had a standing invitation to visit him if I was ever in the London area. I would call Doug on his birthday but since I lived in the US I never had the honor of meeting him in person. I am grateful for having had the opportunity of speaking with Doug on many occasions, hearing about what he was doing, his hobbies and collections, and even receiving Christmas cards from him. I still miss him.

 Dave Anderson

 

 

Doug was my very first childhood friend.  He lived with his mother, father and brother Peter on the ninth floor of Wilberforce Court on the Spur Road Estate, Edgware (on the outskirts of northwest London); I lived with my family on the first floor.  We used to get into all sorts of trouble together; strictly against parental orders, we would 'go over the min' - that is, we would visit the large derelict site, awash with rubble and broken glass, adjacent to our council estate which had been a Ministry of Defense establishment during the war.  We used to enter the estate caretaker's workshop when he was absent and 'borrow' things of interest, including, as I recall, his bicycle.  And it was together that we smoked our first cigarettes in an unused bike shed.  We both claimed to have enjoyed the experience!  (I gave up smoking at the ripe old age of 14.)

Two days ago I had an urge to drive past the place where I spent the first 21 years of my life - I think that's what prompted me to search for Doug's name on Google. Wilberforce Court is still there, although it looks almost slum-like now.  In the 1960s, the block was full of (mostly) decent working class folk like Doug's and my families; I think that is not the case today.

Doug and I were friends before either of us had started our education; I can remember being taken by my mum to somewhere called 'school', having no idea what it was, but being surprised and pleased to find my friend Doug was already there.  I remember on one occasion Doug turning up for school one day wearing his carpet slippers, having walked the mile long journey in them without apparently noticing! The incident caused much hilarity in class, but that really was the sort of chap Doug was at the time - good entertainment value!  On another occasion Doug brought a small padlock to primary school and he and I spent a happy playtime locking and unlocking it to the school gate, which faced directly onto the busy Edgware Road.  Our activity was brought to a halt by Miss Heafey who confiscated the key but left the padlock on the gate.  It remained there, on show and slowly rusting, for at least thirty years until the gates were replaced.  I occasionally used to go past those gates and think,    "I 'm one of only two people who know how that padlock got there".

We were both at Edgware Primary School before moving up to the Junior School next door at the age of 8, which I suppose must have been in 1966.  In your interview Doug mentions playing a bear in the school play - I remember this very well.  Earlier, we had put on a play called The Moonrakers, which I only recently discovered was the work of Malcolm Williamson, the Australian composer who was Master of the Queen's Music at the time, and who was very keen on producing musical plays (or 'cassations') for young people.  Our teacher, Mrs. Brain, must have been inspired by Williamson's effort and decided to write a musical play of her own as a follow-up.  I can't recall the title, but the subject matter was the circus - hence the presence of a bear.  As I write, I can still hear in my head the chorus tune from all those years ago.  I can't recall the plot either, but I think it must have involved the loss of the bear in some way, as I remember a fragment of the words as  "...and bring back Bruin, our loveable bear".

I had no idea that it was Mrs. Brain who suggested Doug audition for the part of Doughnut - I'm sure I never thought about it at all when I was young, and it was only much later that I assumed that the opening had come through Doug's dad, who, if my memory serves correctly, was a cameraman for the BBC.   (Doug's dad, incidentally, was as thin as a rake.  Doug's portly frame came entirely from his mum's side!)

I always had fun watching The Doubledeckers, seeing my friend on TV and spotting the numerous familiar locations in and around Elstree where (I think) the programmes were made.  It really was quite special.

In 1969, aged 11, Doug went to one senior school and I went to another, and we saw less of each other thereafter. The Simmonds moved to new accommodation in Bredon Court, a new block of flats which had been built on the old ministry site, and I think they subsequently moved to private accomodation later, no doubt aided by the extra income that Doug's work would have brought in.  After that, we lost contact.

It is a remarkable coincidence that both of us should have ended up working in the life sciences industry.  It would have given me great pleasure to have made contact with Doug after all that time - we would have had a great deal to talk about.

Alec Gallagher
 

 

If you have memories you would like to share about Doug, please send to me at doubledeckers1@gmail.com and we will add to this page.


 

 

 


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