So back in May, I went to Beccles to watch world-famous whistler Ronnie Ronalde do a two-hour show of singing and bird impressions. Back in the Fifties he was an incredibly successful performer, selling out New York’s 6500 capacity Radio City for 9 weeks running, doing 4 shows a day. A day! Here’s a clip of him singing and whistling on his biggest hit, a cover of the Irish folk song, If I Were A Blackbird:

He told us some very amusing stories of his time performing during the Second World War. Once, in Africa, while entertaining the troops with bird impressions from the back of a truck, eagles mistook him for a bird and began attacking him. Apparently the troops hadn’t thought much of his act but found this hilarious – Ronnie, however, had to take evasive action ‘because they were going for my eyes’ and dived into the crowd.

He’s 90 now, but still managed a two-hour show (with a break for tea). His whistling is as impressive as ever, but it was the show’s finale that really wowed me. Rather than summarise it, I’ve included my tweets live from the event. I think they capture something of the excitement of the moment, and it seems oddly fitting to have been ‘tweeting’ at this great old bird impressionist’s final gig.

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2 thoughts on “Tim Clare’s Cone O’ Tragedy: On Seeing Ronnie Ronalde, World Famous Whistler”

  1. Oh how I kick myself!
    Just heard of the demise of the legend that is Ronnie Ronalde. Missed this performance due to work having seen it advertised at the Public Hall back in 2013. Now, nearly two years later, I’m trying to swallow the bitter pill of regret not having seen this legendary artiste in the flesh.
    I can vividly remember my parents and grandparents referring to Ronnie Ronalde like some superstar of yesteryear. The local character known as”Whistling Billy” would mimic him going about his business around Beccles in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s, whistling tunes unknown to me as a boy but I can occasionally recall when prompted by the wireless.
    And at 90 years old it seems from the text above, Ronnie Ronalde was still able to wow the crowds befitting his status of a star from a generation before. My guess is we’ll not be favoured with his like again.

  2. Tune in New Years Day 2017 9pm-midnight (UK time) on to hear “Remembering Ronnie Ronalde” – a 3 hour tribute of memories and music from this legend.

    For USA and Canada this will be the afternoon of January 1st, for Australia and New Zealand it will be in the morning of January 2nd. You can listen live and join the chat room of Uckfield FM to comment on the show.

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