Why Wiganers loved Ken Dodd ...
Comedian Sir Ken Dodd made millions of people laugh over the years - and he holds a special place in the hearts of many Wiganers.
The 90-year-old funnyman, who died on Sunday, regularly performed in the borough, entertaining audiences with his shows lasting hours and hours.
Wigan even featured in some of his jokes, when he joshed about King Dick of Wigan and the Battle of Plank Lane in television show An Audience With Ken Dodd.
He turned on Leigh’s Christmas lights for an astonishing seven consecutive years in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Crowds packed onto the civic square to see him and his tickling sticks and enjoy his jokes.
In 1998, he said: “For me being an honorary Leyther has completely changed my outlook on life because here in Leigh is a little town with a big heart.”
A portrait of Sir Ken was put on display at Leigh Town Hall in 2005 in honour of his visits and remains there today.
Paying tribute, Lord Peter Smith, leader of Wigan Council, said: “We’re proud to say that Sir Ken Dodd was a regular guest at our Leigh Christmas light events over the years, even switching on the lights a number of times. He was made an honorary Leyther in recognition of his contribution.
“We are saddened to hear of his passing but his comedy will continue to make people laugh and his legacy will live on.”
The Diddyman inventor tried out material at Wigan Little Theatre years ago and once told Post journalist Geoffrey Shryhane that the town changed his life.
In an interview 25 years ago, he explained that he had become well known around the North but hadn’t bothered to “turn professional”.
He said: “Of course, I was a professional but the papers hadn’t been signed. I’m talking of the 1950s now.
“Anyway I came to Wigan Hippodrome and had a chat with a guy called Jimmy Brennan. The Brennans were big in the northern show business world - and had great contacts.
“Anyway I told Jimmy that I’d never signed the documents saying I was a professional entertainer.
“He immediately said he’d put that right and the next day I went to his office and the papers were signed. I’ve always been thankful to Wigan’s Jimmy Brennan.”
Sir Ken, known for his unruly hair and teeth, performed his final show in Liverpool - his native city - on December 28.
But all 2018 dates had to be cancelled due to illness.
One of his more recent visits to the borough saw him open The Grange Community Centre, under the new management of adjoining Hope Special School, in 2014.
He opened the centre and was given a tour of the school, before joining the assembly to lead pupils in a fun-filled rendition of his signature tune Happiness.
A recorded message by Sir Ken was played during the 25th annual Laurel and HarDay, held by Laurel and Hardy fans Sons Of The Desert at Bryn Masonic Hall in September.
As well as leaving Wiganers with many fond memories, he helped to provide a lasting legacy to one of the town’s famous sons.
He was one of several celebrities, alongside Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber, to contribute to a statue of George Formby at the Grand Arcade shopping centre.
Sir Ken also joined other well-known faces when he backed a campaign by the Post for a performing arts venue in Wigan.
He said: “I enthusiastically support a campaign for a theatre for Lancashire based in Wigan. Why? Because you are worth it: wonderful, wonderful audiences.”Many tributes have been paid to the Liverpurdlian comedian and people have shared their memories of him.
On Twitter, Jacqui Pybus wrote: “Remember seeing Ken Dodd at Wigan Little Theatre recording a show for radio broadcast over 30 yrs ago … hours & hours … then again in the bar … legendary”
A user named Wigan Ste said: “Thank you and farewell Ken Dodd. Bizarrely saw him on Pem opening a shoe shop, got a free tickling stick from a diddy man & everything, quality stuff for a kid RIP”
Sir Ken was born in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash and died in the same house with his wife Anne at his bedside, just two days after they were married.
He had a long and illustrious career and has been a household name for decades.
In the 1960s, he entered the Guinness Book of Records for the longest joke-telling session ever - 1,500 jokes in three-and-a-half hours.
He had many TV shows and was a well-known singer, releasing his first single Happiness in 1964, followed by smash hit Tears in 1965 and then Promises.
The veteran comic was knighted in honour of his decades-long showbiz career and charity work in March last year.
He was acquitted following a five-week trial, accused of tax fraud, in 1989 and would later joke about the case.