Harold WaldenA name many of us will be unaware of, I certainly had not heard of him until Paul Mountain called in at one of the Yorkshire Ukulele Circle meetings and showed me his latest instrument, with Harold Walden's name and image on the peg-head. Paul told me that Harold also wrote the song called "Only Me Knows Why" which I was very familiar with as our late friend Dennis Taylor sang it many times at Uke Circle and George Formby Society meetings and he can be seen singing it by following the link below.Harold Walden was born on 10th October 1887 in Umballa, India where his father was serving with the Cheshire regiment of the British Army. They returned to live in Manchester in 1889 but in 1902 Harold followed in his father's footsteps by enlisting in the Cheshire regiment as a drummer boy, serving in India and Ireland where he discovered that he was a talented footballer, representing the Army against the Navy.FootballBy this time Harold must have been based in Yorkshire as after leaving the Army in 1911 he continued his football activities by signing on with Halifax Town. After a short spell he then transferred to Bradford City where he spent four seasons with them and was their top scorer in season 1911 -12.He must have been quite a talent because he was selected for the English amateur team that represented Great Britain at the 1912 Olympic football tournament in Stockholm, Sweden where he played in all three matches to help Great Britain to the Gold Medal. In the first match against Hungary, Great Britain won 7-0 and Harold scored six of the goals!He also served in World War I in the West Yorkshire Regiment, rising to the rank of Lieutenant. At the end of the war, Harold continued playing for Bradford City but in 1919/1920 season he signed on with the Arsenal and is recorded as having played two games, scoring one goal.He returned to Bradford City for the following season but he decided to retire from football during the 1921 season.Bradford AlhambraWhilst playing football, Harold appeared on the stage of the Bradford Alhambra in a charity event playing piano and singing. He so impressed theatre manager, Harold Laidler that he booked him for a week's engagement!.After retiring from football, Harold continued with his stage performances, using his football background in some of his sketches. Harold was a born humorist and life and soul of the party and was known for his antics on and off the field and stage.Within two years he had proved himself and was topping theatre bills and touring extensively all over the UK. He also toured in Australia, China and India. His Olympic gold medal would be displayed outside theatres where he was performing.Only Me Knows WhyHe penned several pieces of music for the ukulele and wrote songs such as ‘Only Me Knows Why’. This became his signature tune. He also wrote ‘Ronnie the Robin’ and ‘Mother I’m a Soldier’ all of which were recorded on 78rpm vinyl.He became part of the famous Ernest Binns Arcadian Follies in the 1940’s. This period also saw him having his own radio spots.He also featured in the 1948 John E. Blakeley film, "Cup-Tie Honeymoon".Harold's DeathHarold died of a heart attack at Leeds Railway Station on 3rd December 1955 after returning from a charity performance in Harrogate to raise money for the Yorkshire Evening News Christmas appeal. He is buried in Killingbeck Cemetery in Leeds, West Yorkshire.The following is from his ‘Memories of A Comedian’ written for the Yorkshire Evening News published on the 30th January 1947.“Folk often ask me which part of my life I enjoyed best. Playing centre forward for Bradford City or being a comedian? And to be honest I tell ‘em this: With football it’s 45 minutes each way. Rain, snow or hail. And at the end the crowd gives you the razzberry if they feel that way about things. With Variety it’s only ten minutes each half. With a two hour interval. And a benefit at the end of every week!”He must have been considered important enough for someone to decide to make a uke-banjo with his name on it (just like George with the Dallas company) but, like so many other artists of that era he is sadly forgotten - or would have been if it wasn't for Paul Mountain and his new uke!Peter PollardThe information and some of the images contained in this article has been gathered from internet sources
A forgotten man of many talents
See Dennis Taylor perform Harold’s most famous song.
Audio of Harold singing ‘Only Me Knows Why’
Audio of Harold singing ‘Ronnie The Robin’
With special thanks to John Pearsonfor kindly sending me these two songs.
Another one of our members who made "Only Me Knows Why" his own was our late friend George Cheetham.When he was young George had taken tap dancing lessons and whenever he and I performed at the Imperial in the 1970's he would often fill one of the breaks in the uke solo with a little flurry of tap dancing to the amusement of the audience.The song would usually be "Five Foot Two" and this was made even funnier as there was no stage in those days and we would be standing on the carpet which of course was perfect for a silent tap dance! I remember John Walley introducing George as "here we have George Cheetham, tap dancing on carpets and only me knows why"!Happy Days.