Wales

D-Day magician Mark Raffles retires at 97

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Media caption"I've pulled some horrendous things out of people's pockets"

As vanishing acts go, it has been a remarkably long time coming.

Mark Raffles has been casting a spell over audiences in theatres and on TV for more than 80 years.

But now the 97-year-old is packing away his cards for good as he looks forward to a well-earned retirement from performing, in Llandudno, Conwy county.

"I'm lucky to have continued for as long as I have. Magic has led me to meet all sorts of interesting people and serve my country," he said.

Born in 1922, in Manchester, performing was in his blood. Raised by a family of entertainers, his mother Amelia once appeared on stage with Charlie Chaplin.

Image copyright Mark Raffles
Image caption One of his routines involved his wife Joan and a dozen poodles - it ran on TV and in theatre for 12 years

While a severe stammer was to prevent him joining the Army at the onset of World War Two, it did not stop him following in his family's footsteps from the age of 16 with a silent magic show.

He helped build air-raid shelters during the Blitz though when his talent was spotted, he was recruited to the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA).

For the next three years, Raffles entertained troops including Allied forces after D-Day in 1944, receiving the Veterans Badge for his wartime service.

Raffles recalled: "At an RAF base we were invited to chalk our signature, messages or cartoons to Mr Hitler (on bombs) 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."

Image copyright Mark Raffles
Image caption Mark Raffles is a life member of the Invisible Lodge in the US

During this time, he had developed what would become his celebrated "pickpocket act'", under the stage name of Ray St Clair, where he would return items to the stunned audience.

He had three children with his wife Joan, who all followed him into showbiz, and became a regular on TV screens during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, including popular game shows such as 3-2-1.

A life member of the Inner Magic Circle with a gold star, he is also both a past president of The International Brotherhood of Magicians and a life member and past president of the Blackpool Magicians Club.

Image copyright RMBI
Image caption "I've had a marvellous life" - Mark wrote books and produced DVDs of his tricks

Now he is set to enjoy his retirement at Queen Elizabeth Court in Llandudno.

Gary Carr, of RMBI Care Company, said: "Mark has brought more than a touch of magic to our home. His immense wartime contribution keeping up the spirits of our troops is humbling and it's a privilege for us to care for him."

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