Colin Burnett-Dick and Archie Andrews began the journey that was to change both their lives back in 2007. Colin and his wife Pauline became the proud owners of a 72-year-old ventriloquist dummy who still thinks he is 14 and remains the same naughty, middle class, privileged individual he was so famous for portraying. Archie gained release from the suitcase that was his prison cell for over forty years and has a fresh start all over again. But let’s let Colin tell you the story!
I heard on the local radio something about the famous ventriloquist doll Archie Andrews having been sold. I was in the shower at the time so did not catch all of the story. I have been fascinated by ventriloquist dolls most of my life, once that is, I had overcome my fear of them. I used to be terrified of toys and dolls and even scary pictures in comics and books coming to life in the night. My parents were not very tolerant of my phobias and I was not even allowed a light on when I went to bed, which made it all the worse. I would imagine tiny plastic soldiers accompanied by a vicious teddy bear, plotting how they would scale the sides of my bed and get me. Consequently I did not get much sleep as a child and spent most of my time a quivering wreck! Then something changed. It was not sudden but my fears slowly went away! I have no idea what changed but something did! My fear had become a fascination.
I even arranged puppet shows in my father’s garage and charged the local kids from the council estate, where I lived, a few pence to come and watch! Anyway, I digress, after I had heard Archie had been sold I asked Pauline, my wife, to check on the internet to see how much he had sold for. She came back and told me he had not yet been sold but was coming up for auction in Taunton in a few weeks time. The press were already covering the story!
Coincidentally we were due to go for a short break down to north Devon in a couple of week’s time and so thought it would be fun to pop to Taunton to see if we could at least get to see Archie on the pretence that we were possible buyers, and so a special viewing was arranged!
The day arrived and we were led through to a back room. The assistant then left us and returned with a battered old suitcase which he unceremoniously dumped on the table with the words, “help yourself I will be out front if you need me!”
I looked at the case and thought to myself, can this really be Archie Andrews? The most famous Ventriloquist dummy in the world? I looked at Pauline and could tell she was thinking the same thing. I leaned forward and lifted the lid of the case. All I could see were towels. Lots of them! I guessed they were there for his protection! I carefully began removing them and then! There he was looking up at me. Now this is where it starts to get a little weird. Something happened! I do not to this day know what but believe me something happened. I knew at that point in time that we would be bringing Archie home with us one day! I looked at Pauline and she later confirmed she had the exactly the same thoughts. Was it all just the thrill of meeting Archie for the first time or had he indeed chosen us?
“I have arranged £40,000 to be at your disposal should you be successful at the auction!” Our bank manager said!
What!” I replied. “There is no way we are spending that sort of money on a seventy year old ventriloquist dummy no matter how famous he once was!” I said. “Well no matter then,” he replied, “but it’s there if you need it!” It was now only days away from the auction but we were prepared. We had decided to stay over at the wonderful Castle hotel in Taunton so as to be ready nice and early for the following days events. We were very aware of the increasing press coverage of the auction on the radio and the TV, which added to our nervousness, but we still felt confident. Suddenly it began. There were fifty lots associated with Archie and Archie himself was the final lot. He sat at the front of the auction hall looking somewhat disheveled and not very happy! Finally, it was his turn! The bidding began in hundreds and very quickly progressed into thousands. I waited until the initial flurry of bids slowed down. There were telephone bids coming in as well from god knows where. We heard a rumour that a very wealthy American collector was after Archie. Pauline was incensed that Archie may end up leaving the country and this strengthened our resolve even further. I put in my first bid at £14,000 and by £22,000 it went quiet. We thought we had him then a fresh bid came in and away it went again. The same thing happened at £30,000 then another fresh bid of £33,000 came in. I looked at Pauline. You could have heard a pin drop. The auctioneer was looking at me. The whole room was looking at me! Pauline dug me in the ribs! “Go on’ she said! £ 34,000! Going once! Going twice! Sold! We had got him. The whole room erupted. People cheered and clapped. What had I done! With the auction house commission we had spent just shy of £40,000. The press wanted interviews, the television companies wanted interviews. I was asked to do a live interview on Australian radio via telephone within twenty minutes of buying Archie. I did not realize how popular Archie was in Australia!
We ended up staying an extra night at the Castle so as we could accommodate all the press and traveled home the following day to more interviews.
Once we had caught our breath we were able to take it all in. We really did not know there was still so much interest in Archie Andrews! We could not help but think of old Brough and what he would have made of it all. We met Brough’s family who were delightful and a little later on we were contacted by Romey Brough, Peter’s adopted daughter from his first marriage and who has become a very close friend.
Since the auction so much has happened. Archie’s re-launch, stage and TV appearances, a radio play and lots more. So what now? Well, watch this space! Archie has new adventures coming along and we will keep you up to date with all that’s happening on this site. As I type this Archie is sitting looking at me from across the table as he always does when I am writing about him. I am sure old Brough is still keeping an eye on his Education!