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Friday, July 23, 1999 Published at 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK


Eric brings Morecambe lasting sunshine

The Queen unveils bronze statue of the comedian

A statue of comedy legend Eric Morecambe has been unveiled by the Queen, bringing a little sunshine to his home town.

Thousands of fans lined the promenade in the comic's home town of Morecambe in Lancashire to watch the unveiling of the larger than life-sized bronze figure.

[ image: Sculptor Graham Ibbeson puts the finishing touches to his masterpiece]
Sculptor Graham Ibbeson puts the finishing touches to his masterpiece
The statue features some of Eric's famous sayings - and the names of 103 celebrities who starred alongside him.

The much-loved comedian - who with Ernie Wise formed the nation's favourite double act - died on May 28, 1984, after collapsing on stage with a heart attack shortly after his 58th birthday.

The song which became the Eric and Ernie television anthem - Bring Me Sunshine - was played over loudspeakers as fans watched the Queen unveil the statue.

The words to the pair's theme tune are also on the steps leading up the the statue.

The statue, sculpted by Graham Ibbeson, is set in an outdoor arena on the town's rejuvenated promenade. It took the artist six years to complete.

Robert Hall reports: "The statue will be a focal point for fans"
It features the comedian in his classic "Bring Me Sunshine" pose, with one hand raised and a leg cocked.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were joined by Eric's widow, Joan Bartholomew, and their children Gary, Gail and Steven.

Mrs Bartholomew said: "It's a bit more than we anticipated. I knew they had done something but didn't expect anything like this. I think the setting is beautiful and it will attract quite a lot of attention.

"I think Eric would have been staggered. You think in terms of buildings or streets being named after you, but a statue? Not for a comic.

"Now he will be remembered for all time on Morecambe front."

David Sillito reports: "The Queen watched the shows like twenty-nine million other people"
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh then met the fans before leaving to visit nearby Lancaster.

She told David Miles, president of the Eric Morecambe Fan Club, that both her and the Duke were great fans.

'Better than statue of Jesus'

Also invited were guests who worked with the comedy pair during the Morecambe and Wise Show's television heyday, including Sir Robin Day.

Sir Robin said: "It's wonderful. I had hoped the statue would have been better than the one of Jesus Christ in Trafalgar Square.

"My name is carved in granite next to Dad's Army who also appeared on the show.

"It's a great honour to be invited today. He was a genius, a genius in his sphere, like Einstein or Beethoven. A genius of his art of making people happy. I was on the show several times, notably when I was hit over the head with a bottle.

"I wouldn't have missed this for the world."

'A special man'

Eric Morecambe was born John Eric Bartholomew on May 14, 1926 at 42 Buxton Street, Morecambe.

He met Ernest Wiseman in 1941 and their act was first seen at the Liverpool Empire the same year.

[ image: Eric took his stage name from his home town]
Eric took his stage name from his home town
He decided to take the stage name from his home town, Ernie shortened his surname, and Morecambe and Wise were created.

Eric's former chauffeur Mike Fountain said: "He was such a funny man. He didn't have to read a script, he was just a naturally funny man."

Dave Miles of the Eric and Ernie fan club added: "He always had time to talk to people and sign autographs.

"He made sure he made your day before going on his merry way."

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