Australian entertainment icon and Play School stalwart, John Hamblin, sadly passed away on Wednesday, September 21 at the age of 87.
Affectionately known as “Naughty John” for his often irreverent sense of humour and use of double-entendres during skits, Hamblin quickly became a fan favourite among both children and their parents during his 30 years as a presenter on Play School.
Born in 1935 in Suffolk, England, Hamblin had originally trained at art school before choosing to pursue a career in acting instead and began studying drama.
Hamblin’s acting career commenced in the theatre with the Theatre Royal in Windsor before making an appearance on the television series The Prisoner.
Upon his arrival to Australia in the 1960s, Hamblin began work with the Sydney Theatre Company before securing roles in television soap operas such as Number 96, Class of ’74, The Young Doctors, and Sons and Daughters throughout the 1960 and 1970s.
Hamblin played the role of Michael Chamberlain in the 1984 telemovie The Disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain and following a break from acting he appeared in guest roles in television series such as All Saints and Love My Way in the 1990s and 2000s.
However, his most iconic role came in 1970 when he took on presenter duties with the popular children’s show Play School where he featured in over 350 episodes before retiring from the program in 1999.
Hamblin delighted fans when he returned for a special guest appearance as part of Play School’s 50th Anniversary special in 2016.
ABC Director Entertainment & Specialist Jennifer Collins described Hamblin as “an unforgettable presenter whose comedic timing and wit helped cement Play School as one of Australia’s most cherished children’s programs”.
“John had a wicked sense of humour and was not afraid of a double-entendre,” Collins said.
“His presence always managed to keep both our toddler target audience and their parents equally engaged with the show. I would like to extend my condolences to John’s family at this sad time.”
Upon hearing of Hamblin’s passing, fans and high profile figures alike joined Collins in paying tribute to the cherished Australian presenter.
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd paid his condolences to Hamblin who brought “delight to little ones everywhere”.
This is really sad. Our kids, like so many others, grew up on Play School, “There’s a Bear in There” and John and Bonita. John took visual delight in bringing delight to little ones everywhere. Big Ted will be shedding lots of tears today. Vale John. https://t.co/53Pw6BLGE9
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) September 21, 2022
Australian singer and co-host of Today Extra, David Campbell, expressed that he was “so sad to hear of John Hamblin’s passing”.
So sad to hear about John Hamblin’s passing. Grew up with him in Play School and was stoked when I got to play his son in “Away” at the @SydneyTheatreCo
My condolences to his family pic.twitter.com/pWYxPJVI2y
— David Campbell OAM (@DavidCampbell73) September 21, 2022
Federal Labor Member for Perth, Patrick Gorman offered his “condolences to his family, friends and ABC colleagues”.
Vale, John Hamblin.
John from Play School was a friend to generations of Australian children.
A life entertaining and educating the next generation is a life well lived.
Condolences to his family, friends and ABC colleagues. https://t.co/xyHAYVjJuv
— Patrick Gorman MP (@PatrickGormanMP) September 21, 2022
Popular children’s entertainers The Wiggles considered Hamblin “a pioneer of early childhood entertainment” who “inspired all of the OG Wiggles”.
Vale John Hamblin, a pioneer of early childhood entertainment with his work on Play School. John inspired all of the OG Wiggles, who were total fans. We are so very sad to learn of his passing. Thank you for being you, John. pic.twitter.com/yugFWjhwvA
— The Wiggles (@TheWiggles) September 21, 2022
It was a good day if John was on Playschool. If it was John and Benita – PARTY TIME. Noni too? – Almost too much! Totally hilarious. Totally inappropriate. Totally perfect. Go well sir, go well. #JohnHamblin pic.twitter.com/Z3spcBYb4n
— Em Rusciano (@EmRusciano) September 21, 2022
I loved John so much as a kid he became like an imaginary brother and apparently I’d tell my kinder about my brother John. God kids are weird. RIP John Hamblin, one of the play school greats. pic.twitter.com/Pupaef6D4n
— Laura Strehlau (@somewherein84) September 21, 2022
I can’t imagine my childhood without John Hamblin. How lucky I was to be a child of the 80s with this hilarious man to entertain me every afternoon. He brought so much laughter and joy to generations of Aussie kids. What a legacy to leave. Thank you John. Vale. pic.twitter.com/pEq1S74iQz
— cinegirl 14???? (@cinegirl14) September 21, 2022
John Hamblin was my absolute favourite on Play School; he was relaxed, cheeky and silly and I loved him.
Thank you for being part of my childhood, John.
— Rachel Baker (@RachelBkr) September 21, 2022
Oh no John Hamblin ???? Everyone loved watching him on Play School especially when you were too old to watch because he was so funny. Thank you for making us all laugh John
— Serena ???????? (@flercken) September 21, 2022
Hamblin is survived by his children Emma and Myles.