Britain's Most Loved and Best Comedy Double Act

Big Eric Tour 99

Feature from 1999

At the statue

The tour bus
The 23rd July 1999 was a very important date in the calendar for all comedy fans. When you look around your local town or even take a day trip to London, statues of poets, politicians and military leaders litter the place. But on Friday 23rd of July the town of Morecambe in Lancashire put up a statue to ‘one we all love and admire’. The one and only Eric Morecambe now graces the promenade of this gentle sea-side town.

Eric took his stage name from the town and it shows the high regard with which he is held that the unveiling was carried out by another, even more famous, double act – Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip. It is well known that they Royal household thought very highly of Eric and Ernie who entertained at many Christmas parties at Windsor Castle during their time. I believe it is even the case that Prince Charles actually thought about appearing in one of the plays what Ern wrote. He was obviously advised not to but that fact that he actually thought about it is quite something.

It is also an indication of the love and affection with which the British public held Eric and Ernie that the unveiling was featured the next day on most of the front pages of our national newspapers, both tabloids and broadsheets. This just goes to prove that the humour and sunshine Eric brought was across the board.

We felt that we had to mark the occasion in a special way. A gang of six of us, all devout M&W fans, hired a mini bus and headed north for the ‘We Love Big Eric Tour’. We decided that the day should be recognised in some way and so we donned the traditional EM costume from the end of so many shows where in a cloth cap, raincoat and scarf Eric heads for the bust stop across the back of the set whilst Ernie sings ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ by himself. A confused Eric interrupts Ernie with “You said we were finishing on that one”. Yes, you may have seen us on the national news. Gladly we seem to have been on just long enough to be noticed but not long enough to make complete fools of ourselves – I hope.

The statue itself is just part of what could be described as a Morecambe and Wise experience and is well worth a visit if you just happen to be within a radius of about 100 miles or so – take a detour – whatever! The statue, in finale dance mode, is at the top of a flight of steps and going down the steps are the lyrics to Bring Me Sunshine. You can see the other visitors to the statue walking around in circles in the area immediately ion front of the statue studying the ground where the catch phrases are imbedded into metal tracts. Smiles appear when they come across a phrase they may have forgotten which reminds them of one of the sketches, such as “for another quid we could have got Lulu” or “He won’t sell much ice cream going at that speed”.

There is also a tract which contains the names of most of the star guests which appeared on their shows and every so often there is a star on the ground containing a comment or a fact about the greatest British comedy double act. If you contributed money to the fund for the statue over the six and a half years the project has taken to complete then your name will appear on one of the stone slabs going down the slopes at the side of the statue. I knew this was the case but I was still chuffed and delighted and a little emotional to find my own name carved into the stone not more than a few feet away from my hero. A sort of permanent memento of my years of being a fan.

We were fortunate to be staying in the same hotel as the special guests which had been invited along for the day, Frank Finlay, Sir Robin Day and Eddie Braben as well as the entire Morecambe dynasty. There was also a show in the hotel on the Thursday night starring Paul Melba. Those of you who remember “Who Do You Do! Will remember that Paul does a cracking Eric impersonation. We were lucky enough to be able to have a chat with him after the show.

The Queen also spotted our group when we were part of the crowd lining the route as the royal car headed for the station. As the car passed we did Eric’s paper bag trick and Her Majesty nudged Philip and pointed to us. Prince Philip eyed us with a glance conveying both curiosity and confusion. The rest of the day was spent visiting places of local interest such as Eric’s birth place in Buxton Road and the family home in Christie Avenue, both which have plaques put up by the Morecambe and Wise fan club.

I for one had a fantastic time and I would like to thank my fellow travellers Colin, Jim, Irene, Maxine and Yvonne for all the laughs. Seldom has a mini bus resounded so greatly with the sound of laughter as our tour bus did. I hope Eric would have been proud of us.

We would like to thank Sandra for submitting this wonderful article.

© S. Skuse 1999

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