A red rose for Mary

Max Miller, 1948
Gordon wearing one of Max's hats
Photograph from the private collection of Gordon Dean

I remember when I first met Max Miller, I was in a bungalow bath that you brought in from the yard and put on the floor, filled with water from the copper. It were 1936. Gran had the oven door open with the gas alight to keep me warm. He came down, this tall feller, he said “You’re lucky son; my Grandmother never had a bath. No, she used to wait for it to rain and throw me out into the garden with a bar of soap!” That was the first joke I’d ever heard of Max’s; he was up the stairs and gone.

Into my life like a beacon
He came into my life like a beacon, he was marvellous. My family knew Max for years. My Granddad, Alfred Thompson, was a cornetist in the old time musicals. He was a musician in the pit orchestra in theatres, old music hall theatres, with performers like Marie Lloyd, Nelly Wallace and Gus Elan. Max used to come down to see him and they were always on about songs and other things you see. I’d hear my Granddad blowing notes for Max downstairs. I was just a little boy, growing up, it was incredible.

The narrowest bunch of roses
One day he came down [to the house], and he brought a rose. His thumb was bleeding; he’d pricked it on a thorn. On the table was a bleach white table cloth, ‘American Cloth’ it was called, and he put this red rose there. “Mary, [my Grandmother] I’ve got something for you”. She came in from the scullery. He said “There you are.” and she looked down at it. I could see this twinkle, and she said, “Max, that’s the narrowest bunch of roses I’ve ever seen in me life!”. So he looked at her and said “Mary, look, don’t be like that”. There was a pint beer glass standing on the mantelpiece with water in it so she put it in there. He said; “Mary it’s not long till me birthday. You give it to me back then if you like!”. They were laughing with each other and that stuck in my mind.

A red rose every year
When he died I remembered that and I’ve taken a red rose up to the crematorium and put it under his plaque with a little card, a different message each year. I’ve done that every year, every 21st of November rain or shine I get there. .

I was thirty-three when he died; the wonderful things he did for me I still choke up about now.

Comments about this page

  • What a lovely story Gordon. You’re one of the lucky ones to have met Max. I discovered Max a few years ago, and you do suit the hat!

    By Lainey Todd (17/05/2006)
  • What a great story and what great memories you have. My dad was a big fan of Max and I follow in his footsteps, I’m 59 now but still I rate Miller the best stand-up comic ever, there’ll never be another!

    By Pete Allen (19/07/2006)
  • Where is the statue of Max Miller located? [Editor’s note: The statue of Max Miller is situated opposite the Theatre Royal in Brighton.]

    By Brenda Read (24/07/2006)
  • Lovely to read through. Although I’m too young to have met Max, my father told me of Max (his uncle) but you have other stories I’ve not heard… would like to meet you if possible – can I contact you by any chance Gordon?

    By Gary Sargent (11/10/2006)
  • Thomas Henry Sargent, Max Miller to the world, was in my book one of the funniest stand up comedians ever. A story I heard once was that he never got on to the Royal Variety Performance because of the nature of his act, but the powers that be then relented and he went on stage. Just before he did, Lew Grade said to him ‘Now, Max, you have the Queen out there – keep them clean’. When he got on stage he looked up at the Royal box and said ‘Do you want them from the red book or the blue book?’. It is reputed that the Queen said the blue book and he never looked back.

    By Patrick Kite (11/11/2006)
  • Another comment about Max Miller. I have worked for the railway for some 34 years and some older railwaymen had told me that written into Max Miller’s contract was that he would be next to last on the stage so he could get over to Victoria to be on the 23.00hrs Brighton Belle back to our beloved Brighton. Staff have told me that the train would wait for him to arrive at Victoria before it left.

    By Patrick Kite (13/11/2006)
  • Patrick – The story about the train is correct.

    By Gary Sargent (16/11/2006)
  • Hello Gary,  I have no access to a computer but would love to speak to you. Phone me on: 01903 605954.  Best Wishes from Gordon.

    By Will Newman for Gordon Dean (23/03/2007)
  • My mother says I’m the reincarnation of Max which I think is a great tribute. It’s all in the mind!

    By David Taylor (18/06/2007)
  • The lady that served in my college coffee bar said her husband was quite often the conductor for Max Miller. I seem to remember her name as being Mary – but not from the Dairy! Her husband was Ivor – Dozen? Is this right? I am going back 30 odd years!

    By Jon (11/12/2007)
  • Max visited my sister on her sickbed just before she died. I had always thought of it as an act of charity and perhaps that is so. However, I see from the messages on this site connections to the names WEST and SARGENT. My grandmother, from Brighton, was a WEST and we have connections to SARGENTs in the 19th century. Perhaps just co-incidences! Anyway, Max brought a lot of joy into our lives. I will never forget.

    By June (06/10/2008)
  • I remember Max. Just after the War, my mate and I always went to see him when he appeared at the Hippodrome and was there the night they dropped the fire curtain on his act, because of the joke he had just told and banned him for a while. So he moved up to the Grand Theatre in North Road. I remember seeing him step out of a big old Rolls Royce painted white with a registration M M on it at one time, I wonder if he owned it or was it part of his act?

    By Ken Burt (28/05/2010)
  • Great stuff! What we need on this page is a few of his jokes from the blue book. Any offers?

    By Peter Sedgley (06/03/2011)
  • Related

    By Michael Robert sargent (11/05/2011)
  • Reference to Ken Burt comment regarding Max Miller’s Rolls Royce. I was stood in a queue at the Hippodrome with my parents, when I was seven or eight at the start of the war, when Max’s drove up and slowed down right by us and I touched his car. I thought that was a marvellous experience. It’s a long time ago now but I thought it was an American car but I could be wrong.

    By Sid Griffiths (27/06/2011)
  • My great uncle Harry (Henry) Sutton was an air raid patrol warden. After a show to wind down Uncle Harry used to let Max go down pass the razor wire on the forbidden area of beach and walk by the sea. The pair of them smoking and swapping stories. Uncle was a bit of a lad too.

    By Yvie Bish (07/10/2016)
  • Sorry Nikki but we do not publish queries regarding individuals like this, as it may infringe their privacy.
    Website Editor

    By Nikki Flynn (01/09/2018)

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