THE summer season in Weymouth just won't be the same this year without the familiar figure of Professor Guy Higgins.

The entertainer, having performed his Punch and Judy show on the beach every summer since 1974, has quit for health reasons.

"It was a way of life," he said at his Malvern Link home, "We'd spend half the year in Malvern and half the year in Weymouth.

"I wasn't paid by the council, in fact I had to pay them for the concession, so I relied on the collections after the shows."

Over the years Guy has seen things change as the lure of the cheap foreign holiday has increased, but he believes Weymouth has suffered less than other resorts.

From an early age, Guy was fascinated by theatre and entertainment, visiting the music halls and theatres that were far more prevalent then.

One of his earliest influences was the Lanchester Marionettes, a puppet theatre troupe based in Worcester Road, Malvern, which achieved great fame and performed in front of royalty.

"When I left school, I wanted to go on the stage, but my parents wouldn't hear of it," he said. "I wanted to be a character actor, but instead I went into woodworking and woodcarving."

However, he kept up his theatrical interests, learning the skills of puppetry and conjuring, and performing his Punch and Judy show and magic act during the 50s and 60s.

Guy's connection with Weymouth began in 1974, when he saw an advert in The Stage, calling for a Punch and Judy man for the Dorset resort. He came to national fame in the early 80s, when he introduced a puppet of J R Ewing, the villain of TV show Dallas.

The resultant publicity saw him appear on shows such as the Generation Game and Wogan, and led to appearances at the Children's Royal Variety Show and work as an adviser to long-running seaside comedy Hi-de-Hi.

He is a member of the Inner Magic Circle and of the exclusive Grand Order of Water Rats, the only Punch and Judy man to belong to the lodge, whose other members include Paul Daniels and Norman Wisdom.

Now describing himself as "slightly over semi-retired", the Professor still does occasional children's parties and also gives talks to clubs and societies, giving entertaining accounts of the history of Punch and Judy.