Feature from 2010
It was a glorious sunny day on 4th March 2010 as a large group of onlookers gathered in the small west Yorkshire town of Morely to witness the culmination of over a years work.
Doreen pulls the ribbon
After false starts, frustration, disappointments, meetings, fund raising and publicity, it was finally time to unveil the end product; a permanent memorial to Ernie Wise in the form a stone statue.
The project had to overcome many obstacles to get to this day, notably funds and the ever present voices calling for the statue to be placed somewhere else.
This somewhere else was East Ardsley, because, claimed the people, he was born there. The problem is, Ernie was not actually born in Ardsley at all, but Bramley.
Morley’s claim is based around what was probably one of his final amateur performance before heading of to London to join Jack Hylton and Arthur Askey in the touring show Band Wagon on a professional basis.
This show was a talent contest called ‘Chuse Ow’ held on the weekend of 24th March 1938 at the Morley Pavilion, which Ernie won with a tap dance and comedy routine.
Fund wise, despite a lot of publicity, the public and private companies seemed hesitant to offer support, unlike the rush of offers for Ernie’s partner’s statue in Morecambe.
Having a lottery bid turned down it all looked over until Doreen, Ernie’s wife, spotted the project and stepped in to support it.
Local sculptor Melanie Wilks was called upon to create his likeness, and with the help of Doreen, who supplied his measurements and photographs, was supplied with a 13 ton block of sandstone and left to it.
Over the next 6 months, she toiled away, mostly by hand, chipping away bit by bit until the figure emerged, complete with straw hat and umbrella.
Similar to the statue of Eric, it depicts him away from the act and a song and dance man, something he always considered himself to be.
Now complete and with the destination finally agreed, the finished statue was lifted into place on a very cold and snowy day in late February, ready to be officially unveiled by Doreen.
Now, surrounded by people of all ages, a cheer erupts as the cloth is pulled off and Ernie can finally look out on his new home.
Melanie, beaming with delight said; “It’s wonderful to see it finished and in place. It was hard work, but well worth it.”
Other onlookers included Mike Fountain, Eric’s Chauffeur for 14 years, who looked up at the figure smiling;
“It’s about time they did something for Ernie,” he said, “he was an important part of the act and deserved a place of his own.”
A sentiment echoed by Eddie Braben, the writer of the Morecambe and Wise shows, speaking on BBC Radio 5;
“At long last. It’s a long overdue tribute to this wonder performer.”
After the unveiling was an invite only reception for guests that featured a display of memorabilia, rare video and audio material and documentation covering Ernie’s early life in Leeds setup by ourselves.
Doreen was keen to see the material and spent a long time at the display going over memories for each picture or document. We chatted and exchanged stories about Ernie, and even provided her with some pictures she had not seen before.
You can see pictures from the unveiling and the reception on our Gallery page very shortly. There will also be a short documentary available once we compile all of the material.
View our image gallery
© morecambeandwise.com 2010