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D-Day landings: Many heroes included Paddy the pigeon 150 150 mhamer

D-Day landings: Many heroes included Paddy the pigeon

Next month (June) sees the celebrations for the D-Day landings.

Next month sees the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings – and Jimmy Cricket marks the occasion in his latest newspaper column.

The Normandy landings were the land and associated airborne operations which took place on 6 June 1944.

Codenamed Operation Neptune and widely referred to as D-Day, it involved the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II –  the largest seaborne invasion in history.

It commenced the liberation of France, and also the rest of Western Europe, and laid the foundations for the Allied victory on the Western Front.

Writing in the Blackpool Gazette and the Lancashire Evening Post, comedian Jimmy says: “As next month (June) sees the celebrations for the D-Day landings which took place 80 years ago, I always pause to think about the many entertainers who helped to boost the morale of our fighting troops.

Beautiful voice

My friend the late Frank Carson, who served in the forces himself, used to joke: ‘One day I saved the lives of 200 men – I shot the cook!’.

Then, of course, there was the Force’s Sweetheart the late great Vera Lynn.

[Vera Lynn’s songs helped raise morale duringWorld War Two. People knew her best for her wartime anthem We’ll Meet Again. She died aged 103 in 2020.

She was just a young girl vocalist back then and the only time she’d been out of the country was when she travelled to Holland to do a gig with a dance band.

However, she had a yearning to do her bit, and before she knew it, she was touring the swamps of the Borneo jungle in the sweltering heat, giving young soldiers a taste of home with her beautiful voice and melodic songs.

Feathered friend

A lot of the time she performed on the back of army trucks.

You know readers, this may sound funny but I always think of Vera’s pianist and accompanist Len Edwards, who always went with her and who risked life and limb to provide her musical backing.

He truly was an unsung hero.

Which leads me on to mention another hero from the Second World War, in this case a silent one.

His name was Paddy, and on the day of the D-day landings, he flew back all the way from Normandy in record time to provide valuable information that reassured everyone at home, that everything was going to plan and that our soldiers had made a successful landing.

The reason he did this without saying a word?

Paddy was a carrier pigeon and his coded message was tagged on to his foot.

Quiet thanks

But what made Paddy even more special was this…

… Of all the pigeon’s released from Normandy that day, he was the last one to make the journey and, guess what, he was the first one back to Hampshire.

But there’s more readers, come closer, what made his feat all the more remarkable was that not only did he have to contend with open-air fire, but the Nazis had placed specially trained hawks along the way to ambush him.

However, our feathered friend thwarted all their efforts and made it home safe and sound.

He did it in an astonishing four hours and 50 minutes, which became the fastest record by a message-carrier pigeon during the Normandy landings.

Paddy was honoured for his heroic achievements by being awarded the Dicken Medal on September the 1st, 1944.

The medal is given for gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict and is often known as the animal’s Victoria Cross.

He eventually returned to the place of his birth – Carnlough, County Antrim, in Northern Ireland, to be with his owner – Andrew Hughes.

He lived until 1954, dying at the age of 11.

In 2019 a plaque was unveiled in his honour in Car lough harbour.

So readers, if you ever cross the Irish Sea and take a trip along the Antrim coastline to drink in the beautiful scenery, make sure you stop off at Carnlough Harbour and pay a visit to Paddy’s plaque and give a quiet thanks for a silent hero.”

Also read: LEP column paid tribute to the ‘wonderful’ Vera Lynn

Unforgettable childhood moment – for the wrong reason 150 150 mhamer

Unforgettable childhood moment – for the wrong reason

Jimmy Cricket is a regular columnist in the Lancashire Evening Post

Jimmy Cricket relives a part of his childhood that he would probably rather forget in his latest newspaper column.

The famous funnyman tells Lancashire Evening Post readers about the time his two aunties, Elizabeth and Cassie, came over from the United States to visit.

All the family were excited with the arrivals of the aunts and even more so as they had brought presents with them.

The young Jimmy got a baseball and ball.

And he quickly ran out of the door and into the front garden to practise.

Jimmy missed with his first few swings but connected too well with the fourth, sending the ball hurtling through a front window!

“I can still hear and see the glass smashing, followed by a deathly hush,” says Jimmy in his column.

“It was a well-chastened nine-year-old that went to bed early that night.”

This is just one of the countless tales regaled by Jimmy in his autobiography.

Memoirs Of An Irish Comedian officially went on sale in April priced £11.99 as a paperback.

It is also available as an ebook priced £9.99 (unless you have subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, in which case it is free).

Amazon Kindle allows users to read ebooks purchased on Amazon.

Clean comedy

Jimmy has said he is happy to sign copies of his book at his live shows, where they are available for a discounted price of £10.

The autobiography tells the heart-warming story of 50 golden years in showbusiness – told in his own words.

Recognisable for wearing a funny hat and green wellies marked L and R on the wrong feet, Jimmy has been making people laugh as a professional comedian for half a century.

And he proudly keeps his comedy clean – increasingly rare these days –  making him the perfect family entertainer.

The book is available from online retailer Amazon here.

Mary’s Meals

His best-known catchphrases include ‘And there’s more!’ and ‘Come closer!’

He is also famed for reading out Letters from his Mammy, which have provided the material for two published books.

One pound from the sale of every book goes to Mary’s Meals.

The charity supports feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education.

Also read: Mary’s Meals: 20 years serving global communities

From bingo caller to 50 Golden Years in showbiz!

Roy Hudd: One of the great performers, writers and comics 150 150 mhamer

Roy Hudd: One of the great performers, writers and comics

Hi folks! Here is my tribute to Roy Hudd, one of the great performers/writer/comic of our generation who is sadly missed by everyone who had the great pleasure of knowing him, here is a link if you would like to donate and help the statue appeal 🎭https://theroyhuddstatueappeal.co.uk/donations

The late Roy Hudd OBE was “one of the country’s best-loved entertainers”, Jimmy Cricket says in his latest newspaper column.

Writing in the Lancashire Post, Jimmy recalls that he first saw Roy performing on TV in the 1960s.

And then the two met in the 1980s after which they became long-lasting friends.

Roy, an actor, comedian radio host, author and authority on the history of music hall entertainment, died in 2020 at the age of 83 after a short illness.

Coronation Street

His widow Debbie heads up the Roy Hudd Statue Appeal, which is raising funds for a lasting monument to him.

Roy earned praise for his roles in Dennis Potter’s Lipstick on your Collar and Karaoke in the 1990s.

The Croydon-born all-round entertainer appeared in Coronation Street as Archie Shuttleworth on and off between 2002 and 2010.

He also starred in acclaimed crime drama Ashes to Ashes. Other TV credits included Broadchurch, Benidorm and Casualty.

Roy hosted BBC Radio 2’s The News Huddlines for 26 years.

Jimmy posted about the newspaper column on social media.

He said: “Hi folks! Here is my tribute to one of the great performers/writers/comics of our generation, who is sadly missed by everyone who had the great pleasure of knowing him.

“Here is a link if you would like to donate and help with Roy and @DebHudd statue appeal theroyhuddstatueappeal.co.uk/donations.”

In his column, Jimmy says: “Roy and I shared so much in common.

“We’d both been Butlin’s Redcoats and we both loved twice-nightly variety, which we were both lucky to see as kids.”

Lyndene return

Jimmy begins his EIGHTH season at the popular Lyndene Hotel in Blackpool on Wednesday (5 July).

He will also be returning on 2 August, 6 September, 4 October, 1 November and 6 December.
Autobiography
A reminder that Jimmy’s autobiography, Memoirs Of An Irish Comedian, is available at online retailer Amazon here.

The paperback costs £11.99.

One pound from the sale of every book goes to Mary’s Meals.

Remembering Max Miller, the Cheeky Chappie! 150 150 mhamer

Remembering Max Miller, the Cheeky Chappie!

Jimmy Cricket's latest LEP column paid tribute to Cheekie Chappie Max MillerJimmy Cricket devoted his first newspaper column of 2023 to the famous funnyman who was known affectionately as the Cheeky Chappie.

Max Miller, born Thomas Henry Sargent in 1894, was an English comedian often considered the greatest stand-up of his generation.

He became known as the Cheeky Chappie and went on to tell jokes, dance, sing and write songs.

Max starred in 14 feature films and frequently appeared on radio.

Northern Irish comic Jimmy provided the main entertainment at The Max Miller Appreciation Society’s 2022 annual lunch and convention in November.

‘Two very remarkable people’

Michael Aspel OBE, the former TV newsreader and presenter, hosted the event.

Aspel, who turns 90 tomorrow (12 January), is a society patron.

The annual lunch took place at The Old Ship Hotel in Brighton.

Jimmy entertained the guests with his inimitable brand of clean comedy.

Wonderful afternoon for the Max Miller Appreciation Society in Brighton with their members, and for organiser Terry, he’s pictured here with President producer/writer the great #JohnFisher alongside the patron, the great interviewer/host Michael Aspel

In his January column for the Lancashire Evening Post (LEP), Jimmy recalls that he was reunited at the November convention with two “very remarkable people” from the world of television, one being Michael Aspell.

The other was the society’s current president, John Fisher, the author and TV producer.

John wrote and produced, among many other programmes, the series Heroes of Comedy, an episode of which featured Max Miller.

A bronze statue of Max stands in the Pavilion Gardens in Brighton, where he was born and died.

The Max Miller Appreciation Society was established in January 1999 in Brighton to celebrate the Cheeky Chappie.

Over the years, it has recruited more than 1,000 members worldwide.

Past president Roy Hudd OBE helped greatly in furthering the aims and ambitions of the Society, as did the late Sir Ken Dodd (past patron).

Also read on this website: Ex-TV presenter Michael Aspel hosts Max Miller annual lunch

Read the latest news from The Max Miller Appreciation Society here.

Wonderful afternoon for the Max Miller Appreciation Society in Brighton with their members, and for organiser Terry, he’s pictured here with President producer/writer the great #JohnFisher alongside the patron, the great interviewer/host Michael Aspel

 

Who was Jimmy’s hero while growing up in Belfast? 150 150 mhamer

Who was Jimmy’s hero while growing up in Belfast?

Hi folks! Here is my July @leponline & @The_Gazette article, where I share my story of while growing up in Belfast, I had dreams of a life on the stage! #keepvarietyalive

Jimmy Cricket has revealed who his hero was while he dreamed as a child of a career on stage.

The popular Irish comedian gives the answer in his latest newspaper column.

He says: When I was growing up in Belfast in the fifties, there were lots of heroes to which you could hitch your wagon.

Elvis was turning pop music on its head, John Wayne was giving the baddies their comeuppance on the big silver screen and Lucile Ball was taking physical comedy to new heights with her television sitcom, I Love Lucy.

However, I didn’t have to go far to find my hero.

He was right there in the school I went to – St Patrick’s Secondary School on the Antrim Road.

His name was Tommy Kelly – or Tucker to his friends.

And why was I so besotted with him?

Because, Tommy Tucker Kelly, at the ripe old age of 12, was appearing in pantomime in the Grand Opera Theatre, Belfast.

The panto ran for six weeks.

It boasted lavish sets, dazzling costumers, a seven-piece orchestra in the pit and families came from all over Northern Ireland to see it.

This particular production of Cinderella, in 1957, starred Des O’Connor as Buttons.

Running gag

I saw it three times.

Tommy played the shorter of the two Brokers Men and every time they’d both come on stage, he’d say: I want to sing.”

And his tall, gangly partner would shout: “No!”

This became a running gag, with the audience becoming more and more vocal in their support for Tommy to be allowed to exercise his vocal chords.

Finally, in the second half, the big guy relents and Tommy regales the crowd with a wonderful animated version of He’s Got The Whole World, which brings the house down.

I couldn’t believe he was just another pupil just like me.

Because he wasn’t in my class, I was much too shy to approach him.

I’d gaze forlornly out of the classroom window as he’s be excused lessons and head out of the school gates on his way to do a matinee performance.

Tommy finished up appearing on the famous television pop show of the day – The Six Five Special.

Enormous talent

In 1998, when I went over to play Button in Cinderella at the Grand Opera House, I was curious to find out how Tommy was, and to invite him to the panto.

It turns out he’s become an astute businessman who was now the proud owner of three fish and chip shops.

We became friends and three years later I went back to play in Jack and The Beanstalk. at the same theatre.

I got his eight-year-old daughter Rachel up to sing one night in the finale – the reaction of the audience proved she’d inherited her dad’s enormous talent.

Like all good pantomimes, this has a happy ending because that little girl, Rachel Tucker, is now a star in West End musicals.

You could say she’s a chip off the old block.

Also read: Second visit of 2022 to Blackpool’s Lyndene nears!

Little and Large: It was a joy to work with them both 150 150 mhamer

Little and Large: It was a joy to work with them both

Hi folks my tribute to Eddie Large and Syd Little efore the unveiling of Eddie's Portrait this weekend in Blackpool, it was always a joy to work with them both! #keepvarietyalive

Jimmy Cricket says Little and Large were one of the best-loved comedy acts to ever play in the famous seaside resort of Blackpool.

Syd Little was the straight man of then two great entertainers, while Eddie Large was generally the funny guy.

They had a TV series and appeared in theatres and pantomimes for many years before their partnership ended when Eddie had serious health problems.

Eddie, who was born Edward Hugh McGinnis, died aged 78 in April 2020.

He had been suffering with heart failure and contracted coronavirus in hospital.

Fellow comedian Jimmy devoted his latest newspaper column to the famous comic duo.
It was published ahead of an unveiling of a portrait of Eddie this weekend at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.
Jimmy said: “It was always a joy to work with them both.”
Here is his column in full:

Little and large were appearing in summer season at the Princess Theatre in Torquay when I went backstage to visit them with a sketch I’d written.

It was the early 80s and I was breaking into television.

They had a prime-time show on Saturday evenings at that time, that used guest artistes and as I’d done a few one-night­ers with them, I thought I’d pitch an idea to them.

I knew from experience that you had a much better chance of getting your material accepted if you let the stars of the show get as many laughs as you did.

So I hit on this idea to do a sketch based on me teaching Eddie to be an Irish comedian.

Eddie was a brilliant mimic and I figured if we could do a couple of routines, we could split the jokes between us.

I also figured if the wardrobe lady could tog him out in the same garb as my comedy character It would be even better.

Here’s the jist of the sketch:

Jimmy: Ladies and gentlemen, come ‘ere, I’ve been for a haircut.

He said: Do you want your hair cut round the back; I said, is there no room in the shop?

Eddie: And there’s more…

He said: You know it needs cutting badly; I said: I don’t want it cutting badly, I want it cut properly.

And so on…. the sketch finished with Eddie’s long-suffering on-stage partner Syd,
(they were the best of friends off stage), coming on to try and keep order but of course we both give him his come comeuppance and do a little jig off set.

When I knocked on the boys’ dressing room at the Princess Theatre in Torquay that evening, Eddie was there on his own and he warmly welcomed me in.

When I handed him the script, he sat down and perused it attentively, (comedy’s a serious business folks), but gradually a smile appeared as he visualised the comic potential of it and a huge feeling of relief came over me.

Happy summer season

He said he would show it to Syd and the two of them would show it to their producer Bill Wilson.

I left the theatre that evening in a confident mood.

You’ll be happy to know, readers, the sketch did make it on to the show.

From the moment we came to the set, in identical hat, wellies and tailcoat the studio audience lapped it up and I’m sure that was replicated with the viewers at home.

Many years later, I did a very happy summer season at the Britannia Theatre in Great Yarmouth with them.

Syd and Eddie never had a hang-up about other comedians on the bill getting laughs.

Another 15 years

To them it was the success of the overall show that mattered and the louder people laughed the more likely they would be to spread the word around the resort.

Not long after that season, Eddie’s heart condition deteriorated, but miraculously he was given a heart transplant at the Papworth Hospital in Cambridge which gave him another 15 years.

I made him laugh once when I sent him an email and jokingly suggested that the reason his new heart was in such good nick was that it came from a theatrical agent and had hardly been used!

It was while Eddie was having treatment for his heart at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, that he succumbed to the coronavirus and sadly died on the 2nd of April 2020.

A light went out in the UK entertainment industry.

All the happy memories of working with Eddie and Syd have been rekindled these last few weeks, because Eddie’s wife Patsy, and son Ryan, have passed on to me the happy news that a portrait of Eddie is to be unveiled at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

Given the fact that Little and Large broke all box office records during their summer seasons in Blackpool, this is a fitting and lasting tribute from our premier seaside resort to one half of one of the best-loved comedy acts to ever play there.

Hollywood stars and different accents – latest LEP column 150 150 mhamer

Hollywood stars and different accents – latest LEP column

Hollywood stars lived just down the road

Where some Hollywood stars were born and how accents differ around the country are the themes of Jimmy Cricket’s latest newspaper column.

The famous funnyman throws up some legendary acting names such as Sir Rex Harrison and Jaws star Robert Shaw in his Lancashire Evening Post July column.

Jimmy begins: “Do you know what readers when I found out we had more opticians in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, it was a real eye-opener.

“But that was nothing to do with the surprises that I got while watching a series on television.

“It was called something like Discovering So and So.

“And the So and So’s in this case were famous Hollywood stars.

“Each programme focused on a star and the gob-smacking moment usually came at the start!

“For instance, take Robert Shaw who starred in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster movie Jaws.

“He was actually born in Westhoughton in Lancashire. That’s just down the road from me here in Rochdale.

“I could have called in and had a cup of tea with him before he headed off to Hollywood.

“But you will never guess the next one – Sir Rex Harrison. Where was he born?

“Are you ready for this? Huyton! Near Liverpool. Yes, the man who played Professor Higgins and who taught Eliza the flower girl to talk proper English in the musical My Fair Lady was actually a Scouser!”

Read one of Jimmy’s previous columns in the LEP

See a collection of Jimmy’s columns over the past six years