Will Hay

Born: William Thomson Hay was born on 6th December 1888 in Stockton-on-Tees. His parents were William Robert Hay, an engineer from Inverness-shire and Elizabeth Ebden from Barnsley. He had two brothers and three sisters.

Educated: The family were soon living further south and Will went to schools in Lowestoft, Hemel Hempstead and London. He later moved to Manchester where he attended evening classes.

Married: On 7th October 1907 Will Hay married Gladys Perkins, daughter of Thomas Perkins, a postmaster. The marriage broke down in 1934 but the couple did not divorce.

Family: William and Gladys had three children, Gladys, William and Joan.

Home: In the 1930s he lived in Mill Hill in London.

Known for: William Thomson Hay became a music hall performer; with the stage name Will Hay.  His schoolmaster act became popular across the country, leading to royal command performances in 1925, 1928, 1938 and 1945. A film career followed. Between 1934 and 1944 Will Hay made 17 films. The most famous were “Oh, Mr. Porter!” and “Good Morning Boys” (both 1937). At that time, only George Formby and Gracie Fields could draw larger audiences than Will Hay. He had his own radio programme for a few months in 1944. He was also a keen amateur astronomer and discovered a previously unknown white spot on Saturn in 1933. At the time this was regarded as a significant contribution to scientific knowledge.

Died: Will Hay died on 18th April 1949 at his flat on the Chelsea Embankment, London, and was buried in Streatham.

Further Information:  “Will Hay” by Graham Rinaldi (2009)

“Good Morning Boys: Will Hay, Master of Comedy” Ray Seaton and Roy Martin (1978)