I’ve just returned from a bracing perambulation around the East Ardsley streets once trodden by late entertainer Ernie Wise. I have it on good authority the short fat hairy legged half on comedy duo Morecambe and Wise was schooled in this old mining village.
Young Ernest, thankfully not following his jocular partners need to change his stage name to that of his hometown. Regardless of the pairs accomplished stage, radio and TV act, I can’t help but feeling a stage moniker Morecambe & East-Ardsley would’ve sat less comfortably with management than the stage appellation which they eventually plumped for.
Actually, Wise did amend his stage surname from the designated birth moniker of Ernest Wiseman. But he was well guided during the process of selecting an alias; subsequently dropping the suffix ‘man’. Sensibly staying clear of seeking entertainment plaudits and later status of comedy legend under the questionable title of Ernest East-Ardsley.
Unlike long term sidekick Eric Morecambe, who’s posthumously erect statue is located in the centre of his eponymous childhood locale, Ernie Wise’s statue stands a few miles from where he grew up. The town of Morley, a few miles from East Ardsley, claiming ‘Little Ern’ as one of their own on the back of him winning a childhood talent contest there in 1936.
In 1972, my brother Ian and me came second in a talent contest in a holiday village at Reighton Gap, near Filey in North Yorkshire. If either our kid or me achieve fame, I’d like to think Reighton Gap aldermen follow Morley’s lead, posthumously erecting our statues outside the chip shop next to the holiday site’s club house. This the venue of our oh so close brush with entertainment greatness.
The act Ian and me performed was singing the Leeds United FA Cup Final song of that year, which from memory was titled ‘Leeds, Leeds, Leeds’ – A seemingly long forgotten song by many, apart from stalwart Leeds fans. This refrain, paying deference to individual members of Don Revie’s warriors in white, the A-side of the single whose B-side bears the now club anthem ‘Marching On Together’.
From memory my sibling and me sang the upbeat reverential lyrics well enough. The audience seemed to appreciate it, especially the many Leeds fans holidaying in the village that Saturday evening. Afterwards, many inebriated fellows applied appreciative pats on our shoulders and, through Tetley Bitter infused breath, proffer a hearty “Good on ya, lads!”
Sadly, though, a dubious looking cardboard clapometer, supposedly responding to the volume of audience applause, deemed my younger sibling and I were only second most popular kids act out of the dozen, or so, who entered the talent show.
The victor a Shirley Temple-esque act who secured the cutesy vote to prevail over the two young boys who’d by song had pinned their footballing affiliations to the mast. Yours truly doesn’t recall what this bundle of blonde curls, fluttering eyelashes and skullduggery sang….. I’ve vague recollections, though, it was something saccharin, along the lines of ‘I’m A Pink Toothbrush, Your a Blue Toothbrush’.
As this girl soaked up accolades of victory, our kid and me looked on forlornly at our runner-up spoils; two packets of Smith’s Salt & Vinegar crisps and a bottle of coke each. Even though we were hugely fond of the crisps, like The Beatles when they handed back their MBE’s in the late 1960’s, Ian and me felt like returning them in protest.
We felt like letting Don and his team down. They’d won us the FA Cup a few months earlier, now while representing our footballing heroes we’d lost out to someone singing ‘I’m A Pink Toothbrush, You’re a Blue Toothbrush’….. No amount of salt & vinegar snacks and bottles of coke were gonna wash away the bad taste in our mouths.
I’ve no idea what prize the young girl received for her triumph via underhanded cutesy tactics. At that time, though, as a heartbroken nine year old I hoped, if it was three packets of crisps and two bottles of coke, the snacks were of a flavour she didn’t like!
Who knows, if this entertainment injustice hadn’t have taken place, Ian (whose played the guitar since his teens) and me could’ve made a living as wandering minstrels. English versions of Scottish brothers Charlie and Craig Reid whose acoustic warbling as band The Proclaimers has earned global acclaim.
Consequently, it’s not looking like those statues are going to be erected at Reighton Gap any time soon!