Billy and his badger bring back memories for his sons, Charles and James

LIFE AND SOUL: Billy Mayo, right, and friends larking about at the Crown Hotel, Blandford, before the Second World War

KOOKIE BUNCH: Above, Top 20 Kookie Club members at the Verne, Portland. The chap in glasses is possibly called Michael Wright

From left: Charles, the late Billy, James and Mary Mayo at James's wedding in 1971

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by

THE picture of Billy Mayo and his badger that appeared in Looking Back on February 18 brought a wonderful response from two of his sons, Charles and James.

It turns out that Billy was not the chauffeur at the Crown Hotel in Blandford where the photo was taken but was head chef – and quite a colourful character to boot!

Both sons remember the time, during the Second World War, when Billy and a friend went to the American Army camp near Blandford and appropriated a large item of food – possibly a whole cheese or a piece of meat.

Charles said: “They hid it in the back of their van but as they approached the gate, they realised that the soldiers were searching every vehicle leaving the camp.

“Thinking fast, dad found a long tape measure in the van and as they approached the gate, he and his friend got out of the van and started measuring everything. They looked official and the soldiers just waved them through.”

James Mayo added: “Dad always said he made and took two fortunes during the war.

“He used sell pike to the Americans and tell them they were salmon.”

James thinks that his father had two badgers and that he possibly sold one to Lady McAlpine.

Billy worked at the hotel for 42 years and it was there he met his future wife Mary Ellen, who went on to become famous on Portland after setting up the Top 20 Kookie Club for teenagers in Victoria Square.

They had five children – Charles and James, plus Teresa, John and the late William.

James said: “She was very popular on the island because of the café.

“There was a jukebox, which the kids loved and she would also organise trips up to London for the teenagers.

“They stayed in a hotel in South Kensington and went to a BBC radio broadcast and also to see Anthony Newley in Stop the World I Want to get Off. They also saw How the West Was Won in a West End cinema.”

He added: “She was so popular that when she died four years ago a lot of the people who went to the Kookie Club attended her funeral.

“One of them came up to me and said ‘I remember you, you’re little Jimmy’. I was 60.”

Charles also had his time in the spotlight when, as a 13-year-old, he saved the life of drowning fisherman Harry Wilkinson, a non-swimmer who had fallen overboard from his lobster boat.

Charles was unable to drag him out of the water so he launched the boat’s dinghy and rowed to get him, pulling him clear of the water. Two other fishermen saw the accident and came to their aid and afterwards, Charles was presented with an RNLI citation.

Thank you Charles and James for sharing your memories. We would love to know more about Billy and Mary and their time at the 20 Kookie Club. Can any of our readers tell us more?

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