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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

What made the late BBC Radio DJ Steve Wright so special… 150 150 mhamer

What made the late BBC Radio DJ Steve Wright so special…

Jimmy Cricket's newspaper column about the late BBC Radio 1 and 2 DJ Steve Wright appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post

Jimmy Cricket has revealed he was a big fan of famous radio DJ Steve Wright who died earlier this year.

For decades the voice of the BBC on afternoon radio, Steve passed away aged 69 in February.

He had joined the national broadcaster at the beginning of the 1980s and went on to host popular shows on both BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2.

In a statement, his family referred to the “millions of devoted radio listeners who had the good fortune and great pleasure of allowing Steve into their daily lives as one of the UK’s most enduring and popular radio personalities”.

Jimmy’s latest monthly newspaper column in the Lancashire Evening Post is devoted to the late DJ.

‘An instant fan’

He says: “When I first got a break on the tele in the early eighties, a friend told me that there was this young DJ on the radio doing an impression of me who was called Steve Wright.

“Obviously, this did my ego a power of good, so I made it my business to tune in to this new ‘jock’.

“I became an instant fan! Steve just had that special something that drew you closer to the radio when he was in full flight.

“He made even reading out the weather report sound interesting.

“Twenty-five years later, I was sitting in the BBC London studios being interviewed by him for his big show that was aired on weekday afternoons.

“I was accompanied by Cannon and Ball. We were there to promote a show we were touring with called The Best of British Variety.

Rory Bremner

“It was great fun as we all bounced ad libs between us, ending with Steve reeling out the theatres around the country where we were strutting our stuff.”

Adds Jimmy: “My other link to Steve’s show came via the impressionist Rory Bremner.

“Rory and I did a TV series for Central television in the mid-eighties and we both got this booking to entertain on a cruise around the Greek Islands. (I know it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!).

“The problem was I turned up at Athens airport without my passport.

“I can still see it now – half a dozen security men gathered round looking at a publicity photo of a guy in a funny hat and wellingtons at 3 o’clock in the morning, all babbling in Greek, half of them giggling and the other half scratching their heads.

“When Rory went on Steve’s show, he relayed the story as only he could, complete with impressions of the Greek officials.

‘Moving and emotional’

“Steve laughed so much he asked Rory to repeat it the next time he came on his show.”

The column continues: “Of course, no article about Steve Wright would be complete without mention of his other BBC Radio 2 show – Sunday Love Songs.

“Here, he gave shoutouts to couples getting engaged and married (as well as people’s anniversaries), while playing some of the most iconic and romantic songs ever written.

“Some lucky couples even got champagne and chocolate.

“This was one of the most moving and emotional programmes on national radio. It drew huge numbers of listeners every Sunday morning.”

Jimmy concludes: “You know, there’s an intimacy about listening on the radio to your favourite presenter.

“Without the visual distraction of television, you feel he’s just talking to you alone.

“Perhaps that’s what made Steve so special.

“Even though he was talking to the nation, you got the feeling he was just talking to you.”

Raising a toast to ‘the godfather of theatrical agents’ 150 150 mhamer

Raising a toast to ‘the godfather of theatrical agents’

Former theatrical agent Johnny Martin was there when his acts needed him the most, says famous comedian Jimmy Cricket.

Former theatrical agent Johnny Martin was there when his acts needed him the most, says famous comedian Jimmy Cricket.

Jimmy and two fellow famous entertainers met up a few months ago to celebrate Johnny’s career.

In his latest newspaper column, which appears in both the Lancashire Evening Post and the Blackpool Gazette, Jimmy recalls the meeting.

He says: “On a sunny Sunday afternoon in late October last year, three entertainers – Syd Little (of Little and Large fame), Phil Cool (comedian, impressionist and musician) and Jimmy Cricket (that’s me folks), gathered at the Bukhara Indian Restaurant near Preston, to celebrate the career of former theatrical agent Johnny Martin.

“This was quite an unusual event in the entertainment world.

“Normally, agents stay in the background while their artistes get all the plaudits… in other words they get the commission while their turns get the glory.

Excited tones

“So, what made Johnny – who now resides in Chorley – so special? Well, he was there when his acts needed them most.

“Let’s let Syd tell his story first: “My partner Eddie Large had to retire because of heart problems, so one minute I was one half of one of the most successful comedy double acts in Britian and the next I was on my own.

“Johnny believed I could  go solo and got me a booking entertaining passengers on the QE2.

“He also encouraged me to write a book about my time as part of Little and Large… he helped me promote it well as getting me live work around the country… and he was there for me when I needed somebody to help build my confidence.

“You could say he’s the godfather of theatrical agents.

Short-lived

“My personal anecdote about Johnny was the time he fixed pantomime for me in my hometown.

“I remember the telephone conversation vividly when he told me in excited tones that he’d booked me to do Jack and The Beanstalk at the Grand Opera House in Belfast at the end of that year.

“Unfortunately, my euphoria was short-lived, for a few weeks later he rang again and this time in more sombre tones he told me that a bomb had gone off next door to the theatre and the pantomime may now not go ahead.

“He said he’d keep me posted.

“I can’t tell you how deflated I was readers, when I put the phone down after that conversation.

“However, like all good pantomimes this story does have a happy ending, because within a few weeks, Johnny rang to say that with the help of a few very talented architects and engineers the theatre could be saved, repaired and brought back to its former glory.

Emotional moment

“It wouldn’t be completely ready for that Christmas, so we would have to change in portable cabins, but that was a minor inconvenience.

“The important thing was Jack and The Beanstalk opened and played to record attendances that year.

“And it had a lot to do with the people of Belfast voting with their feet and showing they wouldn’t be beaten by violence.

“Closer to home now for Phil‘s heart-warming story of how when he had developed his unique style of impressions that entailed bringing his characters to life with his descriptive facial expressions.

“It was Johnny who kept bringing producers and promoters into see his live act that eventually led to him having his own television series.

Yes, it was an emotional moment in that restaurant for Johnny and his lovely wife Chris, as we all raised a toast to the man who helped our career when we needed it most.

“In fact, we all enjoyed our lunchtime get-together so much, that we even thought of forming our own showbiz fraternity to meet in the future.

“Syd suggested calling ourselves ‘The Chorley Chaplin’s’, but Johnny himself had the last word.

“He said: ‘Instead of ‘The Four Musketeers’, how about ‘The Four Must Have a Beers!'”.

Buy Jimmy’s autobiography!Jimmy Cricket with his autobiography

Don’t forget that Jimmy’s official autobiography is on sale.

Memoirs Of An Irish Comedian tells the heart-warming story of Jimmy’s illustrious life and 50-year career.

The paperback costs £11.99 and can be bought at online retailer Amazon here. It is also available via eBook and audio.

Signed copies (£15.99 including postage and packing) can be purchased on this website here.

It is also available at Jimmy’s live gigs for £10 where Jimmy will also sign it.

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.

Also read: Jimmy Cricket’s signed autobiographies now available by post!

Vince Hill was ‘one of the nation’s finest vocalists’ 150 150 mhamer

Vince Hill was ‘one of the nation’s finest vocalists’

Jimmy Cricket used a recent newspaper column to pay tribute to the late, great Vince Hill

A light went out in the entertainment industry when Vince Hill passed away earlier this year, says Jimmy Cricket.

Entertainer Jimmy pays tribute in a recent newspaper column to singer/songwriter Vince, best known for his cover of the hit Edelweiss.

His version reached number two in the UK pop charts in 1967. It stayed in the charts for 17 weeks.

The song was originally from the 1965 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.

In a recent Blackpool Gazette column (which also appears in the Lancashire Evening Post newspaper), Jimmy recalls Vince’s amazing life and career.

He describes him as “one of the nation’s finest vocalists”.

“Most readers will remember Vince for his big hits during the 60s like Edelweiss from the musical, The Sound of Music, and Roses of Picardy – a ballad about a wartime romance.”

Jimmy recalls doing several UK tours with Vince, including of Scotland.

“Vince enthralled the Scottish audiences, especially when he did this amazing arrangement of Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s most popular tunes.”

He concludes: “When he left us, we lost one of our greatest ever singers and a light went out in the UK entertainment industry.”

Successful TV shows

Vince first sang in public as a teenager and joined vocal group The Raindrops, but went solo in the early sixties.

He rose to fame with his debut single The River’s Run Dry and went on to produce a number of hits.

His other songs included Take Me To Your Heart Again and Love Letters In The Sand.

While known mainly for his singing, he was also a songwriter.

Additionally, he hosted several successful TV shows during the seventies and eighties, including the BBC’s The Musical Time Machine.

Before finding fame as a singer, he worked as baker, truck driver and coal miner.

Vince died peacefully at his home in Oxfordshire on 22 July.

Read: The life of British singer Vince Hill

From this website: Vince Hill: Cherished memories of touring Scotland with him

Autobiography – Buy Jimmy Cricket’s autobiography now

 

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.

Search for a Star success signalled start of something special 150 150 mhamer

Search for a Star success signalled start of something special

Next @leponline article chatting about the past and the wonderful television showcase 'Search For A Star' which featured newly discovered talent from the cabaret and club scene (where they came to see you perform live for the audition) #keepvarietyalive

Jimmy Cricket’s big breakthrough into showbusiness came when he won a TV talent show called Search for a Star.

The Northern Irish comedian says he had previously spent eight gruelling years performing on the North of England club circuit.

“It was a tough, bruising apprenticeship,” Jimmy tells readers of his latest newspaper column in the Lancashire Evening Post.

London Weekend Television’s Search for a Star featured newly discovered talent from the cabaret and club scene.

And winning one of the programme’s heats in 1980 put Jimmy in the national spotlight.

He appreciated the significance of the timing, “breaking into televison in the 1980s when glamorous and dazzling variety shows dominated the schedules”.

Jimmy was later given his own series on Central Television in the mid-1980s called And There’s More.

It included the first TV appearance by the impressionist Rory Bremner.

Watch Jimmy’s first television appearance on Search for a Star here. (Warning: there may be advertisements.)

Read details here of the 1980 Search for a Star heat, which Jimmy won.

World’s poorest communities

In the LEP column, Jimmy also talks about his recently released aut0biography, which is now on sale.

Memoirs Of An Irish Comedian tells the heart-warming story of Jimmy’s illustrious life and career – told in his own words.

The paperback costs £11.99 and is available at online retailer Amazon here.

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 – Autobiography: Buy The Jimmy Cricket Story now!