Charles Kenneth Horne, generally known as Kenneth Horne, (27 February 1907 – 14 February 1969) was an English comedian and businessman. He is perhaps best remembered for his work on three BBC Radio series: Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh (1944–54), Beyond Our Ken (1958–64) and Round the Horne (1965–68).
The son of a clergyman who was also a politician, Horne had a burgeoning business career with Triplex Safety Glass, which was interrupted by service with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. While serving in a barrage balloon unit, he was asked to broadcast as a quizmaster on the BBC radio show Ack-Ack, Beer-Beer. The experience brought him into contact with the more established entertainer Richard Murdoch, and the two wrote and starred in the comedy series Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh. After demobilisation Horne returned to his business career, and kept his broadcasting as a sideline. His career in industry flourished, and he later became the chairman and managing director of toy manufacturers Chad Valley.
In 1958 Horne suffered a stroke and gave up his business dealings to focus on his entertainment work. He was the anchor figure in Beyond Our Ken, which also featured Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and Bill Pertwee. When the programme came to an end in 1964, the same cast recorded four series of the comedy Round the Horne.
Before the planned fifth series of Round the Horne began recording, Horne died of a heart attack while hosting the annual Guild of Television Producers' and Directors' Awards; Round the Horne could not continue without him and was withdrawn. The series has been regularly re-broadcast since his death. A 2002 BBC radio survey to find listeners' favourite British comedian placed Horne third, behind Tony Hancock and Spike Milligan.
He is also known as Charles Kenneth Horne.
Because of his heart condition, Horne had been prescribed an anticoagulant, but had stopped taking it on the advice of a faith healer. Horne died of a heart attack on 14 February 1969, while hosting the annual Guild of Television Producers' and Directors' Awards at the Dorchester hotel in London. Presenting the awards was Earl Mountbatten of Burma; an award had gone to Barry Took and Marty Feldman for their TV series Marty, and Horne had just urged viewers to tune into the fifth series of Round the Horne (which was due to start on 16 March) when he fell from the podium. The televised recording of the event omitted the incident, with announcer Michael Aspel explaining, "Mr Horne was taken ill at this point and has since died." A memorial service was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields in March that year.
After his death, Horne was eulogised in The Times as "a master of the scandalous double-meaning delivered with shining innocence", while The Sunday Mirror called him "one of the few personalities who bridged the generation gap" and "perhaps the last of the truly great radio comics." In the December 1970 issue of The Listener, Barry Took recalled Round the Horne and said of its star: