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Tuesday, March 30, 1999 Published at 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK


Little Ern's final bow

Tributes to the "comedy legend"

Family, friends and fans have been remembering the 40-year career of Ernie Wise - one half of Britain's most popular comic double act.

The 73-year-old entertainer died in hospital on 21 March following an operation in January.

The BBC's John Andrew reports on fitting tributes to a fine comedian
The service was held at Slough Crematorium in Berkshire, not far from the home where he had lived with Doreen, his wife of 46 years.

During the service former TV executive Michael Grade said: "There is a sadness across the whole nation as we all have to say our last farewell to Ernie Wise, the last half of a beloved institution, the Morecambe and Wise comedy legend.

"He has managed to leave an indelible mark on the rich cultural history of his country. In the process, he found a place in the affections of millions of its inhabitants through his professional achievements."

[ image: Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise delighted millions]
Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise delighted millions
A hearse covered in floral wreaths arrived at the crematorium containing a coffin topped with red carnations.

The comedian, affectionately known as Little Ern, delighted millions with his partnership with Eric Morecambe in a career that stretched from the 1940s to the 1980s.

His widow asked for the funeral to be a celebration of her husband's life.

[ image: The service was relayed by loudspeakers to fans outside the chapel]
The service was relayed by loudspeakers to fans outside the chapel
Speaking afterwards Doreen Wise said: "I thought it was a rather nice service, both laughter and tears.

"It has been very nice to have all his friends and messages here today. My whole life is fond memories of Ernie."

Many of the celebrities who appeared on the Morecambe and Wise shows attended the service, including Rolf Harris, Frank Bough and Angela Rippon.

During the service Mr Grade paid a tribute to Ernie.

"Why were Morecambe and Wise more successful at making the whole nation laugh than anyone before or since?

[ image: Ernie and Doreen Wise, photographed in Florida in November 1998]
Ernie and Doreen Wise, photographed in Florida in November 1998
"I think the answer is rather simple - there was Eric and Ernie and when you mix the two they created a comedic chemistry that can only be explained in my view as something of a divine process, that really defies analysis.

"The written tributes of the past week have gone some way to redress a rather unfair imbalance in the appreciation of the genius of Morecambe and Wise which has tended to concentrate more on Eric's contribution and not enough on Ernie's.

"Let us be clear, they were equal partners in the comic genius department," he said.

Broadcaster Frank Bough said he was saddened. "He lived next door but one to us for 20 years. That's why I knew him well.

"He would wander down the lane and we would talk often, particularly after Eric died.

"They were a unique pair. They were very, very special. That's why all these people have come here today, even people who never met him before."

[ image: Actor Roger Moore sent flowers with the message:
Actor Roger Moore sent flowers with the message: "Thanks for the sunshine"
Doreen Wise has asked for the flowers and any donations to be given to the British Heart Foundation.

Mr Wise suffered two heart attacks within a week, shortly after celebrating his birthday in Florida in November. He underwent a triple bypass operation in January, and was flown back to the UK by air ambulance earlier this month.

A special memorial service is being planned.

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