AFTER 15 glorious years wallowing in the mud with The Hippopotamus, dallying with The Gas Man and quaffing Madeira, Oxfordshire's number one Flanders and Swann tribute are hanging up their hats.

James Mitchell and Grahame O’Connor, better known to fans as Two Blokes and a Piano will be bidding a very musical farewell at the end of this month.

What's more, their first night on February 24 has proved so popular they have had to arrange an encore the night after to pick up the stragglers.

The piano-and-parody pair, who also revive the repertoire of Stilgoe and Skellern and other famous musical duos, are holding their final concerts at Grove's Old Village Hall.

Mr Mitchell, who also helped found Wantage's Not-Just-Betjeman literary festival, joked: "The strains of travelling up congested motorways, arriving on time and getting the sound right in venues from tiny village halls to major theatres have finally got to us!"

Flanders and Swann rose to national treasure status in the 1950’s and 1960’s with comic cavalcades such as as The Gas Man came to Call and The Hippopotamus Song.

Michael Flanders usually wrote the witty lyrics and Donald Swann set them to catchy melodies.

Though their songs were greatly appreciated by grown-ups, lots of children enjoyed them and many now in their seventies and eighties still remember all the words – as Two Blokes have discovered on their outings.

The act began when Mr Mitchell was asked to sing solo in a concert with a choir at Drayton with extracts from the Merry Widow.

As the evening needed a second half it was decided to include other songs, one of which was the Hippopotamus Song.

This went well so, he decided to learn more of the Flanders and Swann repertoire and together with Mr O'Connor – who he had met through Opera at Wantage – Two Blokes gave their first Flanders and Swann evening at Challow Park concert Hall during the Wantage Summer Festival in 2003.

Just like Flanders and Swann, Mr O'Connor played piano while Mr Mitchell sang most of the numbers.

During the last 15 years, the pair often attended events at Donald Swann’s house in Battersea where they were delighted to meet such celebrities as John Amis, Ian Wallace, Stephanie Flanders and others associated with the pair.

During these events it was customary to toast Flanders and Swann from a schooner filled with Madeira wine in celebration of their fortified favourite Madeira M’dear?

Over the years, the Blokes have added songs of other musical duos to their set list, including those of Richard Stilgoe and Peter Skellern and those of a more recent act Kit and the Widow.

Being a quirky act, the duo have naturally won some pretty quirky gigs, such as the time they were asked to perform in someone’s living room in Bridgnorth.

Mr Mitchell recalled: "There were six people sat on a sofa and easy chairs and the rest of the audience were on the staircase."

Comic misunderstandings have also added colour to the touring, such as the time someone mistakenly booked the Blokes to sing the songs of Flanagan and Allan (of Underneath the Arches fame) rather than Flanders and Swann.

Logistics have also provided a challenge such as when they were stuck in the underpass along Euston Road and the Sat Nav was telling them that they had arrived at their venue – the Salters’ Hall.

"We probably had arrived," Mr Mitchell muses now, "but it was 200ft above us and a mile or so around a one way system!"

Far from putting their feet up, the pair are intending individually to spend their time on other interests: Mr O'Connor playing his fiddle and dancing with local folk groups; Mr Mitchell as chairman and principal baritone of Kennet Opera.

Mr O'Connor said: "Performing the songs over the last fifteen have been an absolute delight and we hope that they continue to be enjoyed by countless people for many years to come."

Two Blokes and a Piano will hold their farewell concerts at the Old Village Hall, Grove, on Saturday, February 24, and Sunday the 25th, 7.30pm both nights.

Tickets for the 24th have now sold out. Tickets for Sunday (£8.50) from Vale and Downland Museum, 01235 771447, or Brett’s Chemists, Grove, 01235 763941.

Wine and soft drinks will be available.