Walking down the prom, there are so many focal points of great views and artwork, from the Venus and Cupid statue to the mosaic coat of arms situated near the end of Lord Street. However, the most favourite statue along the stretch of the promenade, the one which attracts thousands of visitors each year, is the Eric Morecambe statue.
Almost every day, there will be someone standing by him, taking a photo whilst creating the infamous Eric Morecambe pose. It is a must-do for almost every visitor and it would be hard to come across any local who hasn’t done the pose themselves. The statue has resided on the promenade since 1999 and even though it is only 22 years old, it has become the image of our town.
Despite the bronze statue being such a big part of Morecambe, there is a whole generation, who are becoming more of a majority, who may not really know the magnitude of who Eric Morecambe actually was. I know my own children, who love standing on the platform beside the monument with their legs up, certainly do not and the only reason I, myself, know who he is, is down to research and online videos.
So Who Was Eric Morecambe?
John Eric Bartholomew was born on 14th May 1926 on Buxton Street, Morecambe. His father George was known to hold a job at Lancaster Markets, whilst Sadie, his mother, would be crucial to John’s (Eric Morecambe) success. Sadie picked up work as a waitress in order to pay for her son’s dance lessons. She certainly was a big part of his career, often managing his gigs and encouraging the formation of Morecambe and Wise.
Although he seemed to have a natural talent for the world of arts and entertainment, he had a large variety of interests in his spare time. As a teen, he enjoyed a spot of fishing. His Father would take him to Morecambe beach and teach him how to set 'Trot Lines', a service of lines suspended between poles. They'd catch cod, plaice, flukes or anything. He also went rod fishing from the pier and from boats. It is not well known, but his enjoyment of fishing led him to write his own book called “Eric Morecambe on Fishing'' which was published in 1984.
He was also a great fan of football. Anyone who knew Eric Morecambe knew of his fondness for Luton Town F.C and in one episode of The Morecambe & Wise Show, he had Glenda Jackson, a well-known actress of the time, famous for her roles in (A Touch of Class and Woman in Love) wear a banner reading 'Luton Town FC'.
When he wasn’t supporting football, he was a very avid bird watcher. Which is why, when you visit his statue, he is adorned with a pair of binoculars, representing his love of birds and lent his name to various RSPB schemes with a hide in Leighton Moss even being named after him.
He married his wife Joan Bartlett in Kent in 1952 and they lived their family life in Harpenden in Hertfordshire from the 1960s until his death in 1984. Eric and his wife Joan, had three children, Gail (born 14 September 1953), Gary (born 21 April 1956) and Steven (who was born in 1970, but whom they adopted in 1974).
Eric Morecambe: His Career Journey
Eric Morecambe began his entertainment career at an early age 13 he received a child entertainment licence from Morecambe and Heysham authorities. He quickly found success in his talent, winning many competitions, including one at Holylake, which won him an audition in Manchester for Jack Hylton, who was known at the time as the “British King of Jazz” in the mid 1920’s.
He was destined to be the comedy act he became with Ernest Wiseman, in a famous quote, he is remembered saying “My ambition is to become a comedian. My hero is George Formby, another native of Lancashire. I would certainly like to follow in his footsteps.”
Three months after his audition for Jack Hylton, Eric was invited to attend a touring show called Youth Take A Bow, which consisted of a series of short sketches, songs, and dances. Here, he met Ernest Wiseman, who would turn out to be his lifelong friend and partner in the double act Morecambe and Wise. When the pair were allowed to perform their double act for the tour, Jack Hylton was thoroughly impressed and made it a regular slot on his tour.
After a brief separation, due to their services for the second world war, the pair rejoined and began performing on stage and radio, even securing a contract with the BBC to create a show called Running Wild. This was short-lived and they went on to further advance their talents with appearances on Sunday Night at the London Palladium and Double Six.
The double act followed on to have their own series called “Two Of A Kind”. Despite its early struggles, the show became popular within it’s second series and the show’s success propelled their career even further and they would soon be one of the UK’s most popular pair on television. Their sketches were original slapstick comedy and had people laughing across the world, with success even in America.
Even with their fame going far and wide, Eric Morecambe(after his hometown), made sure to return to his beloved seaside town often to keep connected to his northern routes. He often made reference to his home town, even in the clip above he features a stick of “Morecambe Rock”. It has been said that he was well respected when he returned and would often leave with a boot full of his favourite Morecambe Potted Shrimps and other local produce.
After the sixth season of Two Of A Kind, the series came to an end, with Eric Morecambe returning to the BBC. Unfortunately His health wasn’t too great and he suffered a heart attack in 1968. Morecambe and Wise continued working together however and hosted The Morecambe and Wise Show, doing annual BBC Christmas shows from 1968 to 1977, with the 1977 show having an estimated audience of 28,385,000 and in 1976, they were both appointed OBEs. ( Eric Morecambe's wife, Joan, would also received an OBE in 2015, for her work with children's charities.)
The Morecambe and Wise show was a great success. Inspired by Laurel and Hardy, the slapstick humour was great, clean, harmless fun and a simple glance of his bemused, yet blank, look on his face would leave the audience in fits of laughter. Morecambe and Wise are often compared the the modern comedic duo Ant and Dec, with their honest comedy for all the family. Much like today we may get together as a family to watch the pair host BGT, it was the same for the viewers of The Morecambe and Wise Show.
Over the next few years, Eric Morecambe would feature in many big productions, both sketch shows and movies, always playing the naive and gullible kind, with a fondness for the ladies. He became a well known household name and a large part of the entertainment industry, even to the night he passed away.
In 2002 the BBC did a poll of the greatest Britons in history. The list includes the likes of Princess Diana, Sir Winston Churchill and William Shakespear, including, coming in at 32 our very own Eric Morecambe.
The name Eric Morecambe is one that will echo through our seaside town until the end of time. Whilst the memories may be disappearing, his legacy will live on forever.
Whilst we know we have not covered all of his great accomplishments, is there any you could add? Do you have any memories of the great icon of Morecambe? If so get in touch at email@example.com.