For more than 20 years, Roy Castle (UK) hosted BBC TV’s Record Breakers, introducing the British viewing public to a host of officially amazing individuals. And along the way, he became quite a record breaker himself…
Roy was the very definition of an all-round entertainer, his talents including acting, singing, trumpet playing… and tap dancing. He’d trained as a dancer from a young age, and on 14 January 1973, just a year into his tenure on Record Breakers, he’d set a record for the Fastest tap dance: an astonishing 1,440 taps per minute, or 24 taps per second.
For such an accomplished hoofer, it was only a question of time before Roy embarked on another tap-dancing record attempt. In 1977, he joined 500 other participants to perform the then Largest tap dance at the BBC TV centre:
Eight years later, Roy donned his tap shoes once more, for an even more ambitious goal: to perform 1 million taps in the fastest time possible, for charity. The record attempt was staged at the Guinness World of Records Exhibition in Piccadilly, in the heart of London, UK. Needless to say, achieving such a massive total takes time – 23 hr 44 min, to be precise. The marathon feat necessitated regular breaks every 20 minutes or so, and the presence of a doctor and osteopath. Roy retained his characteristic good humour throughout, though, taking the opportunity to celebrate each new total of 100,000 taps by blowing himself a trumpet fanfare.
And in 1990, he took his record breaking to another level, setting a new record for the Longest time spent wing walking (3 hours 23 minutes, on a Boeing Stearman biplane, flying from London to Paris).
Sadly, two short years later Roy was diagnosed with lung cancer – he was a non-smoker himself, but believed that he had developed the disease through passive smoking, during the many years when he performed in working-men’s clubs. He went on to campaign vigorously for greater awareness about the dangers of passive smoking, embarking on a 1,200-mile (1,930-km) charity roadshow – the “Tour of Hope” – to raise funds for a £12-million ($18-million) centre for lung-cancer research based in Liverpool, UK; today, the charity that runs the centre is named the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, in his honour. He also devoted time to recording a jazz album and completing his autobiography, Roy Castle: Now and Then.
Despite a valiant battle with cancer, Roy passed away on 2 September 1994. But there’s still a wealth of love and respect at GWR for the man who tapped his way into hearts and record books alike.