Britain's Most Loved and Best Comedy Double Act

Ernie's Leeds

Feature from 2008

Ernie's Birth Certificate

Atlanta Street

Warder Street
After making our feature about Eric's Morecambe along with the accompanying film, we set our sights on Ernie.

After a lot of research we can finally peice together Ernie's younger days around Leeds.

Unlike Eric, much of Ernie’s younger life has been limited to brief snippets of information and the details described in Graham McCann’s excellent biography. Having no children may have added to the problem; Gary and Gail Morecambe are both fountains of knowledge when it comes to Eric.

With no one to ask apart from Doreen, his wife, who does very few interviews, the only other avenue open are the masses of official documents, electoral roles, maps and of course a lot of spare time and dedication.

For this article and for the accompanying film, we did ask Doreen for her invaluable input, but sadly she could not spare the time, at least at the moment.

When we began this journey we had the details outlined above coupled with various ideas, rumours, gossip and misinformation that is usually found to be lurking in any celebrities past. Our aim was to find the truth, and to publish our findings here as a reference, and for anyone to read should they feel the need.

Our starting point was his birth. This in itself was surrounded by rumour and misinformation. In fact several books, including the newly published “Untold”, got the facts wrong by stating that he was born in Ardsley.

His birth certificate tells a different storey though, stating that his parents at the time were living at what must now be recognised as his first home; 6 Atlanta Street, Bramley, Leeds.

As confirmed by Doreen, his wife, Ernie was born in St. James's Hospital in Leeds.

As we follow his journey we can plainly see that his childhood consisted of many moves, all to poor areas, some even labelled as slums either at the time or a few years later. It is also clear that wherever he found himself, there was a railway line or station close by, presumably because of his father job; a railway signal light-man.

The Wisemans remained at Atlanta Street for only a few months, last registered there in December 1925. It is interesting to note that Ernie’s birth was not registered until January 1926, at which time his parents were still at Atlanta Street.

Atlanta Street is still in its original location, just off of Stanningley Road, Leeds, although the houses have long since been replaced by more modern accommodation. As part of the redevelopment Atlanta Street was shortened (see map) and we have no way of telling if the location of number 6 was removed, or is still there today.

They next appear just 4 miles away, in slightly better living conditions, again just off of Stanningley Road at 35 Warder Street. Even though the houses were better, and provided more space for the growing Wiseman family, these would later be demolished in the slum clearance that began in the mid 60’s.

Today there is no trace of streets, the area has been totally re-built in a different layout. An old photograph of Warder Street in 1961 show how Ernie’s house looked. (far left).

By the time Ernie got to Warder Street he would have been less than a year old and probably would not have remember much about it.

They remained in Warder Street for 5 years, last registered there in October 1931.Their next move would take them nearly 20 miles across the city, the furthest they would ever move.

The reason for such a long move is unknown, but a change or promotion in his fathers job could have been the cause. Working on the railways would mean he may have had to move to get a better job or higher pay. Initially being a lamp-man, some sources say he later became a porter, so maybe this was the reason for such along move.

The house to which they moved was a bit of a mystery, even Graham McCann notes it as an ‘address in Kingsley’. Starting with the general area, Hemsworth, and working through archives and electoral roles, the destination can finally be revealed; 29 Tombridge Crescent. The Wiseman’s were registered there from October 1931 to October 1935, by which time Ernie would have been 9. It is important to note that the village is not called Kingsley, but Kinsley.

Local historians note that this was again a poor area, close to several small collieries it had the dismal overtones of many of towns and villages that relied on coal for its survival.

The house and the street are still standing.

It was during his time at this house that Ernie began to perform. Setting up a father-son double act, they would tour the local pubs and clubs earning some extra much needed money as “Carson and Kid”.

© 2008
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