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Living Treasures of Dorset: Ivor Charles – retired fisherman

'I done thousands of fish and never got paid 30 quid for it'

Ivor Charles waits patiently outside the King’s Arms in Weymouth, keeping an eye on a parking space he’s secured.As he hoves into view it is clear to see why he’s appeared in countless movies as an extra portraying a fisherman.
It also becomes clear that his waiting at the pub wasn’t too much of a hardship as it is ‘headquarters’ to him – the Duke of Cornwall running a close second to it on his list of favourite places to be.
Both venues are where he likes to go dancing and he especially enjoys the fact that, even at 75, he can get away with dancing ceroc with all the young ladies: ‘My mum taught me to dance, to waltz, when I was three, standing on ‘er feet, and I’ve danced all the other dances in between.’
Now retired from fishing he still goes out on his yacht Humdinger and is very much part of the fishing community in Weymouth. He says he’s got negative buoyancy, though, so can’t swim.
The idea of becoming a film extra was first put to him by a friend who suggested he sign up with an agency, who recognised his potential instantly, and he has not been short of work since, with credits including The Boat that Rocked, Cinderella, Snow White and the Henchman, a documentary called ‘Titanic: Case Closed’, Dark Shadows, da Vinci’s Demons and even an episode of Trollied.
Unsurprisingly, Ivor is known as ‘The Captain’ after the Birds Eye fish-finger ads from the late 60s.
Ivor is very keen on his new film career and though he loves fishing and although one can’t imagine this salty sea dog away from the water, he is hoping more commissions will come his way.
He wouldn’t mind playing Captain Birdseye: ‘I’m the slimmer, trimmer version – I’m the healthy option – ’cause he was a big fat fella wasn’t ‘e.’
Ivor was 6’2” when he was measured in his days with the Coldstream Guards, but 6’1” when measured for his filming career, so he’s lost an inch somewhere, but, at 11 stone top weight, all that sailing and fishing and dancing and acting are certainly keeping him ship shape.
In da Vinci’s Demons he and the other fishermen were asked if they minded handling fish. Ivor said: ‘I can gut it, skin it, fillet it, do whatever you want with it!’
They brought him a ling and he dealt with it and Ivor recalls: ‘they said “Oh, for the film could you do it slower?”, so I’m doing it in bloody slow motion and I said, “I might need another fish ‘cos they’re doing all these retakes and the bloody thing’s falling apart”.
‘I got £30 extra for talking,’ says Ivor, ‘and I got £30 extra for doing this fish! Yeah, I done thousands of fish and never got paid 30 quid for it. Brilliant.’
‘The people are great, yeah. We’re used to be[ing] out in the weather we are, fishermen. But you are out there in your outfit and they’re bringing you a pouch like so you don’t get wet,’ he chuckles. ‘It’s bloody brilliant.’
❱ Portrait by Millie Pilkington; pen-portait by Liz Pope. Abridged from Great Faces, published by Dovecote Press, ISBN 978-0-9929151-0-0 at £20.

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