Mark Raffles, 97, lives at Queen Elizabeth Court in Craig-y-Don, Llandudno. He moved to the Home in August 2015 retiring after 80 years in show business.
Mark was Born in January 1922 in Manchester, where he discovered he had a gift for magic from an early age. He became a regular on TV during the 60s, 70s and 80s, appearing on popular variety shows under the stage name of Ray St Clair before his famous pickpocket act as Mark Raffles.
During the Second World War, Mark became part of the Entertainments National Service Association, which was set up to provide entertainment for British armed forces personnel. Mark entertained servicemen and women in army barracks and theatres all over the UK.
With the onset of the Second World War, having failed his army medical because of his stammer, Mark worked as a bricklayer building air raid shelters. He was also part of the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) rescue squad during the Manchester blitz.
Before long, Mark was directed into the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), an organisation set up to provide entertainment for British armed forces personnel. For the next three years, Mark entertained servicemen and women in army barracks and theatres all over the UK.
It was during this time that Mark developed his famous pickpocket routine, standing in the foyer before the show looking like the perfect gentleman who later produced items on stage, stolen from the amazed audience.
Following D-Day in 1944, Mark was drafted into Europe, performing to British, American and Canadian troops. In May 1945, soon after Liberation Day, he performed for troops and civilians in the Channel Island of Guernsey.
Mark later received the Veterans Badge from the Ministry of Defence in recognition of his wartime service.
On one occasion, before a show at a Royal Airforce Base in Lincolnshire, Mark recalls: “We were given a piece a chalk and shown buggy loads of bombs. We were invited to chalk our signature, messages or cartoons to Mr Hitler and we did it with gusto. Later that night, some members of our audience had to deliver those bombs and I couldn’t help but think, had we delivered the last bit of laughter and glamour some of those airmen would ever see? It certainly made you work hard to please.”
A magical life
After the war, Mark returned to playing the Music Halls with his famous on-stage pickpocket act. He first appeared on our television screens in 1949.
Mark began a new act after falling in love with his late wife Joan. For many years the couple toured as ‘Mark Raffles and Joan’. They had three children who followed them into showbiz.
Mark and Joan later took over a well-known variety act called The Wychwoods. They had twelve toy poodles, which were seemingly produced out of thin air. The act played during summer seasons, pantomime and television for twelve years.
Involvement in Freemasonry
Freemason Mark was a member of Dukinfield Lodge 5959 in the Province of Lancashire.
Mark's life at the Home
Living at Queen Elizabeth Court, Mark enjoys watching the entertainers that visit but is often busy with his own activities such as writing to magazines. Mark still corresponds with his many fans around the world and has inspired a new generation of magicians, such as Newcastle escapologist Chris Cross. He has also produced a number of books and DVDs.