Tributes as comedian Alex ‘Happy’ Howden dies

Alex 'Happy' Howden at a Comic Relief event in 1997 with Edinburgh Claymores cheerleaders. Picture: Graham Hamilton
Alex 'Happy' Howden at a Comic Relief event in 1997 with Edinburgh Claymores cheerleaders. Picture: Graham Hamilton
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TRIBUTES have been paid to the Edinburgh-born actor and comedian Alex “Happy” Howden, who has died in his mid-seventies.

With credits spanning TV, theatre and variety shows in the miners’ clubs of central Scotland and northern England, Mr Howden established a reputation as one of the nation’s most versatile and vital performers.

His roles ranged from big-screen outings as a hangman in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and Boab Senior in The Acid House to TV appearances in Monarch of the Glen and Taggart.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Mr Howden’s daughter, Kathryn, said: “Our beautiful dad Alex ‘Happy’ Howden passed away yesterday, much too soon, we are all heartbroken.

“He was the kindest, funniest and warmest man, and the best dad, husband and granddad ever.”

She added: “Our hearts are hurting, but full of love and memories...Love you dad always.”

Born in Leith, the father of three - two of whose children became actors - spent 15 years as an amateur boxer, earning the nickname “Sweet Chariot” because he was always swinging low. A miner in the pit at Loanhead aged only 15, he was able to secure work with transport company Salvesens and sailed with the firm on far-flung jobs to the South Atlantic.

He also had five years as a bus driver with Edinburgh Corporation.

Making his early forays into acting and entertainment thanks to variety bills in miners’ and dockers’ social clubs, Mr Howden found himself playing to capacity crowds, hundreds at each show.

The performer built up a loyal following in the north of England but said central Scotland was his favourite beat, particularly Edinburgh and the Lothians.

He went on to win regular slots on stages across the land as his reputation grew.

Moving away from live performance, he took on TV roles as varied as Stan in Rab C Nesbitt and Priest in The Book Group, with film appearances in comedy drama St Antony’s Day Off and gangster movie Strictly Sinatra.

In 2011, he told the Evening News he needed receive hospital treatment for hardened arteries in his legs.

Writers and journalists have been quick to pay tribute to Mr Howden following news of his death.

In a tweet, Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh said: “Very sad to hear about the death of Alex ‘Happy’ Howden. One of the nicest and funniest people it’s been my privilege to know.”

Evening News arts editor Liam Rudden said: “Alex ‘Happy’ Howden” was an Edinburgh institution.

“He was incredibly witty and a real gent. A real family man, he was also a talented actor who over the years made the transition from stand-up to actor effortlessly.

“The Capital has lost one of its truly iconic entertainers.”