Being on the outskirts of the town where he was born and raised, I ventured to see the coast front statue of late entertainer Eric Morecambe. The man christened Eric Bartholomew, who later took his hometown moniker as his stage name.
Along with comedian Les Dawson, entertainer Ronnie Barker, and former Leeds United footballers Billy Bremner and Allan Clarke, the Lancastrian sits amongst a small cluster of childhood heroes. Five idols who, in association with my loving parents, made my pre-puberty years a time I think of as utopia in sock tags***.
*** – Sock tags the football stocking accessory adorned by Leeds United football club at that time, which as a young boy I adorned endlessly. This fashion statement an attempt to bask in the glory of my city of births all-conquering side; the only exceptions to this constant wearing of tags during bathing and school time. My mum was pretty insistent I couldn’t wear the stocking accessories under my trousers when alma mater in situ.
Eric Morecambe the ‘funny one with glasses’ in entertainment duo ‘Morecambe & Wise’. His straight man Ernie Wise (with his short, fat, hairy legs) born and schooled in East Ardsley on the Leeds/Wakefield border. The area of West Yorkshire where my mother lives; a domain which currently has the dubious ‘pleasure’ of my residency.
Eric the comedian whose intentionally off-key performances on the keyboard were a consequence of him playing the right notes, just not necessarily in right order. Celebrity victims of his wit and mischievousness queuing up to get a cameo performance in the Morecambe & Wise shows of the 1970’s.
Amongst them Elton John, Andre Previn, Des O’Connor, Glenda Jackson and Shirley Bassey just to name a few. Stars whose position amongst entertainment royalty bore no weight when it came to dodging a Eric Morecambe bullet of whimsy. Their reputations not sparing them the ignominy of being mercilessly sent up by the former master Bartholomew and the Ernest the Leeds lad.
Winter Saturday evening TV entertainment on BBC1 was superb back then. Unlike the insipid, shouty audience, reality pap that now sullies contemporary terrestrial Saturday evening TV broadcasts, we were spoiled by being treated by shows from The Two Ronnies, Mike Yarwood, the gentle policing of Dock Green by 145 year old Sgt George Dixon. Later on we’d get more rugged US cop shows (for the time), such as Starsky & Hutch, Kojak, Ironside and rotund detective Frank Cannon.
In the Strachan home in Low Fell, Gateshead, we’d pull the sofa closer to the fire and have a cheese on toast supper. Later we’d gorge on crisps and Alpine pop along with TV that captivated me. An evening that didn’t end until Match of the Day had concluded (well, if Leeds United were one of the three Division One fixtures broadcast).
Visiting Eric’s statue today at first hand brought back those wonderful winter Saturday evening’s, when his jovial mischief at the expense of his and Ernie Wise’s guests would have the whole of my family in stitches. Shows that were ordinarily concluded by the duo performing the song ‘Bring Me Sunshine’.
After having my photograph taken next to one of my childhood heroes statues, I stepped away from the sculpture and what had been an overcast day thus far saw it’s inaugural solar rays…… Like on numerous occasions in my childhood Eric had brought me sunshine.