Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Trouble With Tributes

Morecambe and Wise are firmly established as the nation’s favourite double act, remembered lovingly every year in tribute programmes and repeats of their most famous shows. They are also commemorated with individual statues in their home towns, although they are of wildly variable quality.

Eric was a keen bird watcher, hence the binoculars
Eric, who died in 1984, was born in Morecambe, and his statue is brilliantly placed at the top of a set of steps leading up to the sea front, allowing for some fantastic sunsets and sunrises to backlight his iconic silhouette. Unveiled in 1999 by The Queen, it was sculpted by Graham Ibbeson, and is an effective and affectionate tribute to a much loved figure, as well as an accurate portrait, but then Ibbeson has form: his other works include statues of Eric-lookalike Phillip Larkin and Cary Grant, as well as one of Les Dawson in Lytham-St. Annes.

Ernie died in 1999, a few months before Eric’s statue was put in place. Eleven years later, in March 2010, his own statue was unveiled in his home town of Morley in West Yorkshire. It’s terrible. Little Ern looks rough and unfinished, and is unsympathetically situated in a busy street, shoved in a flower bed like an upturned ice cream cone. It's difficult to recognise the subject, especially as it puts him in the less familiar (but not inaccurate) pose of a song and dance man, albeit one whose legs are glued together with concrete. At seven feet tall, however, it's considerably larger than the real thing, which Ernie may very well have appreciated. Whereas Eric’s statue attracts tourists, Ernie’s statue simply upsets passers-by. One Morley resident said: "It doesn't look like him. It looks as if he’s falling over. It’s frightening people".
'It's frightening people' 
Is that a crease on the right hand side, or a tear track?
I’d like to see a statue celebrating these friends and colleagues at their very best and most recognisable, i.e. together, perhaps with Eric smacking Ernie about the chops. I'll go as far to suggest that it should take up permanent residence on the vacant fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. The tourists won’t necessarily get it, but it isn’t for them, it’s for us, and is every bit as relevant as, say, Major General Sir Henry Havelock.


  1. I've got a photo of me posing next to the Eric Morcombe statue taken back in 2003. I remember at the time being pleased at how thoughtfully located it was.

    Spent a few hours in Lytham St.Annes back in July and wish I'd known about the Les Dawson statue as I'd like to have seen it.

  2. When I was about 9 or 10 I went with my Mum and Dad to see Morcombe and Wise at a local Theatre. Sadly I remember nothing about the show. On the plus side my mum got an autograph from Eric Morcombe. Top post Mr Wittering.