‘Carry On’ Dr Babs Windsor made a Dame in New Year’s Honours
- Credit: UEL
TV’s glamour queen Barbara Windsor has gone from the daughter of a seamstress and market trader in London’s East End to Damehood in the New Year’s Honours, announced officially this-evening.
The star who first made her name in the 1960s Rag Trade TV sitcom about an East End dressmaking sweat shop now joins the ranks of Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren.
She already has an honorary doctorate from the University of East London in 2014 and is now made a Dame of the Realm “for services to charity and entertainment”.
Babs—or Dame Dr Babs—is famous for her roles as the buxom blonde in the Carry On! films and as brassy pub landlady Peggy Mitchell in the BBC’s EastEnders.
But just as important in her life is the charity work as an ambassador for Age UK, patron of the Amy Winehouse Foundation, the face of the British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal—and a star attraction at this year’s 50th anniversary of the Spitalfields Crypt homeless shelter.
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“I’m so honoured, proud and extremely humbled,” she said. “I feel so lucky to live in a country I love, a job I have always adored which has allowed me to be in a position where I’m able to help others.
“For a girl from the East End born into a working-class family and an evacuee during the Second World War, this is truly like a dream—but it’s real.”
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Barbara’s meteoric showbiz stardom also attracted leading East End underworld figures. She knew the Krays and frequented their nightclubs in the 1960s, on first-name terms with twins Ron and Reg and befriended Reggie’s wife Frances.
Controversy was never to leave her life. Barabara stirred it up in October when she told those who refused to wear a poppy on Remembrance Day to “sod off” on live television.
The ash-blonde actress now approaching her 80s was awarded an MBE in the 2000 New Year’s Honours and a spot on the ‘cultural icons’ float in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee parade in 2002.
Babs was born in Shoreditch in 1937 as Barbara Ann Deeks, whose dad was an East End market trader and mum a modest dressmaker, the family soon moving to Mile End where they lived for several years.
Her mother’s dressmaking was an inspiration for her first TV role in 1961 in The Rag Trade.
But her career goes back before her TV debut, when she was spotted by a talent scout performing in a 1950 charity show at the age of 13.
She went on to star in films such as Joan Littlewood’s Sparrers Can’t Sing in 1963 before joining comic Sid James in the Carry On screen hits.
But Dame Barbara nowadays is best known for her role in the BBC’s EastEnders as the Old Vic pub landlady Peggy Mitchell, a role she played for 16 years which earned her a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ accolade at the 2009 British Soap awards.
The ‘Cockney Sparrer’, the kid from the back street slums of Shoreditch, has finally made it to Damehood in the Queen’s New Years Honours.