Legends of Sunderland: Bobby Knoxall

“What yer pulling ers up for I’ve did nowt wrong? He said yer driving on the pavement, well I’ve got nee road tax!”

Bobby Knoxall MBE (1933-2009) was a Sunderland born comedian who became known for his passionate support for the city and his local spin on humour.

Born in the east end of the town in the early 1930s, the world of the great depression, Bobby (who was known then as McKenna) had a tough start to life. He was expelled from two schools and was illiterate, being forced to survive and make a living as a barrow boy selling fruit.

That was before he discovered his true talents as both a singer, dancer and acrobat. After winning a dancing competition at the old “Rink” next to Park Lane (which is now Sunderland College), Knoxall got his big break and soon featured in a a cabaret with Johnny Mathis, Roy Orbison and Louis Armstrong,

Bobby spent the early years of his career performing in London before developing a comedy act on the side. But there was thing that never left him, and that was his love of Sunderland. Knoxall famously recorded a song for Sunderland’s historic FA Cup final victory, known as “All the Way“. As part of his standup career, he regularly sold videos and DVDs with titles such as “Mackem laugh” transforming himself into a local legend.

Knoxall devoted himself to the city not just through his humour, but also through his charity work, raising over £1 million from local causes. As former journalist Patrick Lavelle (1960-2010) told the Echo: “Bobby Knoxall was a true Mackem. Proud of his roots and always fighting the city’s corner. “To some he was a bit rough around the edges, yes, but always a gentleman.”

However, as he aged, ill health caught up with Bobby and around the 1990s he suffered two heart attacks. By 2002 however, he had relaunched his career as a stage comedian and in 2004 earned an MBE from the Queen for his services to entertainment and charity.

Bobby passed away in 2009 due to liver and kidney problems. At this point in his life, he was living in Aintree Road on Farringdon.