Dave Lee MBE
It was the summer of 1969 when I first met Dave Legge. Dave worked as a washing machine engineer for the same company that my father worked for as a TV engineer. My father, in an effort to increase his income, purchased two ice-cream vans and Dave helped him out as a driver at weekends.
I road shot-gun with Dave that summer. We had a whale of a time, picked all the best spots where we weren’t supposed to trade and frequently sold out early. Dave’s other skills, I soon found out, were as a drummer in a rock band and the one I remember most – as a naturally gifted comedian. Sometimes I was unable to serve customers as I was laughing so much with him. In his own way he taught me how to see the funny side of most things in life and equipped me with a thick skin for when the joke was on me. Dave was the sort of guy you couldn’t help liking, the sort of person you would like to be yourself.
Once whilst he was driving along the Thanet Way I questioned him about how a drummer can make his hands and feet all do different things at the same time. He decided it was easier to show me and he proceeded to demonstrate as he drove. Fortunately he stopped before the accident that we nearly had.
I lost touch with Dave after that summer, but memories often came back and made me chuckle. Some years later I turned the TV on and there he was, my Dave Legge but now everyone’s Dave Lee. I was so pleased that he had followed his dream and made it.
More years passed and often I read about Dave in the local papers. He spent many years working as a warm-up comedian for big name TV comedians. He set up a charity, Dave Lee’s Happy Holidays, and tirelessly raised money to provide holidays for the disabled, sick and underprivileged children of Kent and their immediate families, which to date has raised over two million pounds and given those children a chance to laugh and something to remember forever.
In the last 20 years Dave was a stalwart of Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre pantomime. As he had put on a pound or two over the years he always played the Dame. So many times I thought that this year we really ought to go and see him in the pantomime but somehow never quite made it.
Dave was awarded the MBE because of his charity work. He was proud to say that no-one involved in the charity was paid. Our paths did cross a couple of times in this period, both at charity events. Dave was still the same as I remembered him, a really nice guy who stayed that way and always with a smile.
When the 2011 pantomime started at the newly built Marlowe Theatre we did at last get there, but sadly Dave was unwell. Included in the performance was one of Dave’s sketches that he included every year and it went down with rapturous applause.
Canterbury City Council decided to give Dave the ‘Freedom of the City’. Such an honour is infrequently bestowed but this was unanimously applauded locally. Because of Dave’s illness the Council brought forward the announcement and planned the ceremony for January 31st.
Dave Lee passed away today. His name trended on the UK twitter feed. Tributes have been posted all evening by people who loved him, his humour, his kindness, those who as children were shown a light that gave them hope, his friends and many of those who had worked with him.
Dave doesn’t need the freedom of a city now. He has the freedom of our hearts that he gently filled with laughter whilst still being one of us.
When it’s my turn to meet Dave again I’ll remember not to ask him about drumming when we get in that ice-cream van, laugh all the way to those places we shouldn’t go, and sell our 99’s to the Angels.