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Tragedy of Roy Castle as he died of lung cancer without ever smoking a cigarette

A jack of all trades, Roy Castle was a master of them all. He could dance, sing, play a hoard instruments, was a top-of-the-bill comedian and hugely in-demand actor.

The Yorkshireman had shot to stardom in the 1960s, performing in the Royal Variety Show, selling out live shows across the UK, had hit records with his jazz heroes, and even battled Daleks in the first big-screen appearance of Doctor Who.

His fame hit new dizzy heights when he landed the lead role on 70s telly show Record Breakers. He led the programme to the top of the ratings charts – and set several world records of his own.

He still holds the record for the fastest tap-dance ever, achieving and astonishing 1,440 taps per minute, or 24 taps per second in January 1973.

Roy Castle was living the show business dream. He’d married talented dancer Fiona Dickson in 1963 and was enjoying raising their four children when tragedy struck.

Roy Castle was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992, despite never smoking a cigarette

In 1992, the same year Roy was awarded an OBE in recognition of his talents and services to charity, doctors discovered the star had lung cancer.

The diagnosis came as an enormous shock to the entertainer and television presenter, who had never smoked a cigarette in his life. In fact, he was staunchly opposed to the habit.

After going public with his battle, Roy explained he believed he had contracted his illness after years of playing in smoky jazz clubs early in his career.

He said in a documentary about his disease: “Whilst playing the trumpet in smoky rooms I inhaled great gulps of air – you have to fill your lungs.”

Tragedy of Roy Castle as he died of lung cancer without ever smoking a cigarette

Roy’s widow Fiona previously explained that the effect of passive smoking wasn’t taken seriously at the time.

She told the Liverpool Echo in an interview in 2010: “When Roy was first diagnosed people were very disparaging about the prospect of passive smoking doing any harm.

“Now look where we are. Ireland and parts of America have gone non-smoking.

“Good has come out of it that way.”

Roy, who was born in the village of Scholes in West Yorkshire in 1932, selflessly decided to do all he could to raise awareness about lung cancer and passive smoking in the time he had left.

In the last two years of his life, Roy raised millions of pounds to fund the opening of an international cancer centre in Liverpool.

Tragedy of Roy Castle as he died of lung cancer without ever smoking a cigarette
Roy believed he had contracted his illness after years of playing in smoky jazz clubs early in his career

He even embarked on a nationwide “Tour of Hope” just two months before his death on September 2, 1994, despite his weak state.

The star passed away just two days after his 62nd birthday at his home in Buckinghamshire.

The cancer centre he was at the forefront of fundraising for was named in his honour and a foundation set up in homage to him too.

This year marks 26 years since the showman’s death, but his legacy is continuing to fund vital research into lung cancer.

In one of his final interviews, Roy urged fellow sufferers to live as normal a life as they possibly could.

“Don’t whine – laugh,” he said.


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