A beautiful tribute to Mel Smith from his former teacher Chris Hammond published in the magazine of his old school Latymer.
In the letter Hammond praises Smith as “a true Latymerian, excelling both inside and outside the classroom”. The school has also unveiled a picture of Smith playing Shakespeare’s Falstaff in a 1969 production, exclusively reproduced above for RadioTimes.com
“Astute, organised and mature for his years, confident yet pleased to be encouraged, Mel was very popular with both his fellows and his teachers,” wrote Hammond.
He also reveals that Smith set up a means tested scholarship at his alma mater for people from low-income backgrounds and named after his much-loved English teacher.
“Mel set up the Colin Turner means-tested scholarships which have, since 2002, given a number of young people from low income backgrounds a free education at Latymer.
“When the school publically thanked Mel for such an extraordinary act of philanthropy he responded in a self-effacing manner with a heartfelt speech about his happy memories of being a Latymer school boy.”
A tribute to Smith from his comedy partner Griff Rhys Jones also appears in this week’s Radio Times.
In it Rhys Jones described their working life together, in which they made more than fifty hours of television together
“We were not similar, really,” he wrote.
“I invited Mel to my country cottage and he never took his coat off. He took me to the races and I read a book. I dragged him sailing and he asked to “go in” when we were halfway home and 30 miles from the nearest port. He loved a drink. I am teetotal. He never carried a credit card. I never have cash. He never went for a walk. I run ten miles a week. He worshipped Stephen Sondheim. I think Sondheim is a pretentious, overrated introvert, who can’t write a tune…
However Rhys Jones added that whenever they were presented with a “real cracker” of a joke “we both loved it, equally and unequivocally. We knew what it wanted and how to do it”.