Leonard White

There was recently a short film released about five famous people with strong connections to Newhaven.  First we had King Louis Phillipe, the last King of France, next on the agenda was Charles Wells, the notorious fraudster who ‘Managed to Break The Bank of Monte Carlo’, we went on to take a look at Punk legend Wreckless Eric who went ‘The Whole Wild World, Just to find her’, whether he did or not we are still yet to be informed. And then we met the magnificent Ty Jeffries. So the final face of  ‘A Famous Five’ is in fact, myself Leonard White, but of course, my particular boat race is not so well known or easily recognisable.

So why does that Steed character keep appearing in the footage?  I hear you think.

So the final character of ‘A Famous Five’ is myself, Leonard White, as I just mentioned, and I proudly take the responsibility of helping to create and produce an iconic TV series of the late sixties called; ‘The Avengers’.

 King Louis Phillipe. Charles Wells. Wreckless Eric. Ty Jeffries.

As a boy, it was thought that I would follow in my Father’s footsteps, he was a bookie, and back in the day it was considered plausible, and common practice, that one would continue in the family business, way back then we lived at #73 Brighton Road, as you can see, that Steed fellow popping up again I notice, he was quite encouragable, don’t you agree?


Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, my future seemed planned out for me BUT, whilst at school and introduced to a drama group I knew that I wanted to be in the entertainment industry and an actor I would be, that was my destiny!

Life takes it’s toll of course, and my aspirations were put on hold for a few years when the second world war appertained. I did my bit in the infantry, but needless to say I survived in good health, and with all my limbs intact, thank goodness.

Infantry marching to war

My part in the Avengers story was brought about quite by accident, but we all know that fate plays a huge part in all our lives. I had taken on a job in Canada and whilst there I enrolled in a course run by CBC the Canadian Broadcasting Company for promising directors or producers.

Upon my return to England I then pursued a career in production, and my aspirations for an acting career were quelled.

My first major production, called An Inside Story was inadvertently via someone who head hunted me from my time in Canada. This series was reasonably well received, under the Title of Armchair Theatre. Hence my sitting here in an Armchair today, appropriate don’t you think? Sorry to keep asking you questions but I like to involve my audience it’s like we are having a nice chat, now where was I, oh yes the armchair theatre stuff, it was well received but after an initial run of 13 episodes was curtailed.

However, the lead actor in that programme Ian Hendry, who was a hot ‘Box-Office’, property at the time and ABC, the television company based in the Midlands that produced the show, wanted to keep hold of him and so were looking for a new series that would suit his style and ambiance,  so to speak.

This was when I came up with the idea of ‘The Avengers’ with Ian Hendry as the main character. As they say the rest is history, after one well received season, Ian felt the desire to move on to pastures new, and slickly, Patrick Mc Nee, who played Steed, stepped in to take on the lead role, and make it his own.

Honor Blackman, Cathy Gale

I will of course quite gladly take full credit for selecting Honor Blackman as the ‘Female Interest’, as at the time, such roles were consistently filled by much younger people. Cathy Gale was an instant success. It proved to be a master stroke on my part, and the women that were to follow more than justified my foresight. Next came Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, then Linda Thorson as Tara King and last but by no means least, Joanna Lumley as Purdey, and each and every one of them still retain their rightful places as some of the greatest ever British TV icons to this day.

Joanne Lumley, The Avengers

There were of course some of those memorable moments that no-one ever forgets and people often ask me mine, ‘That’s an easy one I say, obviously the scene that signifies that the voluptuous but extremely vulnerable and desperate Diana Rigg, as Emma Peel, normally adorned with a short skirt and long jacket, but on this particular occasion fashions a black leather catsuit with thigh high boots to match, wow! She is helplessly bound and gagged to the railway tracks with a steam train heading straight for her and so she is about to be decapitated or even worse. Albeit only a miniature railway, the tension is totally captivating.

Steed in his efforts to save the damsel in distress discards both his brolly and his bowler before jumping onto the moving train. Then throws a young Steven Berkoff off the moving locomotive during the shenanigans, before dealing with the other heavy, who was driving the train.


Steed manages by the skin of his teeth to divert the train at the last possible moment . The baddie manages to catch up with them again but then ends up in the river at the mercy of the scissor kicking Emma Peel who is very upset and angry.

Cut to Steed walking off down the road, tipping his hat and twirling his brolly; And there he jolly well goes, Steed on his merry way.

I wonder who he will be having afternoon tea with today, the most glamorous of ladies Honor Blackman, the delightful  Diana Rigg, luscious Linda Thomson or the gorgeous and timeless Joanna Lumley?

Who knows, but true to form, he will certainly have a right proper smug smile on his face, that’s for sure, that’s for damn sure.

Words by Stevie Martin

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