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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2007, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
'The kindest, most generous man'
Bernard Manning
Bernard Manning died after treatment for a kidney condition
Geoff Williams, a friend of Bernard Manning for 40 years, explains why the controversial entertainer - who died on Monday aged 76 - was so unique.

I've known Bernard since my job moved me to the north west - I liked the man.

The sad thing with Bernard was the fact that even in my family, people would say they disliked him because of how they viewed him and what he said.

But when you got to know the man, he was the kindest and most generous man I ever had the pleasure of meeting.

He did have political views, he was quite outspoken, I suppose it was this that got him into so much trouble. But he was his own man and as Frank Sinatra would say, he did it his way.

I used to bring my work team to Bernard's club - a bonding exercise - and every time it worked, he would have a go at each and every one of them.

Bernard Manning
He did himself a big injustice on The Mrs Merton Show - he let himself down
Naturally, you've got to have a sense of humour to appreciate him. If you've got a sense of humour, then surely you can take what he has to say on the chin.

I never believed he was racist. I believed he was a genuine guy who just wanted to make people laugh. He told jokes about everybody.

The first time I ever went to his club, his father was behind the bar, his mother was behind the till, his wife was doing the organising and his brother was on the door - it was a family concern, they were all nice, decent people.

Working men's clubs

Bernard used to encourage people to heckle. He liked a response from his audience and he got it.

But there was never any bad reaction to him, I never saw anyone really heckle him about prejudice. It was generally very good-humoured.

He was very disappointed at not being on TV any more. But he came from a rough part of Manchester, he could take knocks. I think he got over it and he went back to his roots, doing the working men's clubs.

I think he did himself a big injustice on The Mrs Merton Show, I don't think he should have agreed he was a racist. He let himself down.

Bernard Manning
He said he had always tried to do the best he could for people and could not understand why people disliked him
When I challenged him, he said he was trying to put Caroline Aherne off. He thought that by saying he was a racist it would put her on the defensive. But she played it rather cleverly. Most people saw him as the baddie, which he told me he didn't intend that at all.

Charity work

Bernard described himself as a God-fearing man and he never took a holiday - his wife and son would go away but he preferred to stay on the stage, making people laugh.

He was involved in quite a few charities. He didn't want to talk about his charity work though, he wanted people to judge him on who he was and what he did.

He said the biggest thing was to receive an ovation and to be thanked for what he did on stage.

He was also devoted to Manchester City football team - he was always supporting the underdog I suppose.

Just before he died, he told his cleaner he had always tried to do the best he could for people and could not understand why people disliked him.

She replied: "It must have been something you said Bernard". I think that sums him up.

I'll always remember going to his home, and he'd open the door in his Y-fronts and a vest. That was his trademark. But you accepted him for what he was. He was a great guy. I'll miss him very much."

Manning penned his own obituary
19 Jun 07 |  Entertainment
Obituary: Bernard Manning
18 Jun 07 |  Entertainment
Comedy star Bernard Manning dies
18 Jun 07 |  Entertainment
Bernard Manning: Your comments
18 Jun 07 |  Have Your Say


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