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Yarmouth, wonderful Yarmouth by the sea

PUBLISHED: 17:45 09 October 2008 | UPDATED: 11:58 03 July 2010

PIER-RING DOWN: The Britannia Pier where Ronnie Ronalde and Max Bygraves starred in 1951.

PIER-RING DOWN: The Britannia Pier where Ronnie Ronalde and Max Bygraves starred in 1951.

WHEN singing, whistling and yodelling entertainer Ronnie Ronalde recorded The Yarmouth Song in 1956, he was extolling our Norfolk resort where he starred for three summers in the 1950s.

WHEN singing, whistling and yodelling entertainer Ronnie Ronalde recorded The Yarmouth Song in 1956, he was extolling our Norfolk resort where he starred for three summers in the 1950s.

First, he topped the bill with Max Bygraves at the Britania in 1951, returning to Yarmouth in 1955 and 1956 along Marine Parade at the Wellington Pier Pavilion.

I doubt that the record was ever broadcast nationally on the monopoly BBC Radio, long before local stations existed, and would be surprised if it or the sheet music attracted more than a handful of buyers hereabouts - and very few beyond this county - although I may well have misjudged its impact.

The Barry Lewis composition was “the official song of Great Yarmouth as authorised by the corporation.” The lyrics include “Yarmouth, wonderful Yarmouth”, “by the sea” and “the place that has everything” - more or less the resort's advertising slogan that I believe was later challenged because it was clearly an inaccurate claim that could not be justified.

“Everything” is a very specific word and even the most partisan citizen would have to admit that there were things we lacked.

After I recalled the song in this column years ago, BBC Radio Norfolk sought to revive it as a novelty, but few listeners were stirred by it.

Whether or not the ditty persuaded anyone new to take a holiday in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston, we will never know. Nor will we discover if the song misled an undecided tourist into visiting the wrong Yarmouth - the other one in England if not those abroad.

But in the matter of one-upmanship, I would be surprised if our Yarmouth was not unique among its four namesakes in having its own song, professionally produced, even if it never “set the woods on fire” (in the words of a contemporary Frankie Laine-Jo Stafford hit).

Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight has no need of a promotional song when it has people like Caister resident Ken Read championing its charms. In a letter published in the Mercury in June Mr Read, of Forties Close, painted a captivating picture of idyllic “Yarmouth” before bursting the Utopian balloon by revealing that it was not Great Yarmouth to which he was alluding but Yarmouth on the island.

A month after reading Mr Read's letter, Mrs Peggotty and I sampled his favourite Yarmouth for ourselves during a planned short break on the Isle of Wight - we had intended seeing our namesake anyway, but fancied the experience all the more after his glowing description. It was comparatively quiet on our visit compared to his, but we found it to be an enchanting little gem totally lacking razzmatazz.

According to a guide book, it is the oldest town on the IoW with a charter dating back to 1135, an historic harbour, a 19th century timber pier, and a lifeboat. Being bounded by the sea, the River Yar and marshland, those physical confines have prevented its expansion since the 16th century; some of its grid system was laid out by the Normans. Sounds familiar…

The three other Yarmouths are across the North Atlantic - two in the US, one in Canada. The American pair are in states of Massachusetts (often with “Cape Cod” included in its name, like Yarmouth and Gorleston), and Maine. The Canadian Yarmouth is in the province of Nova Scotia

If memory serves me a-right, Filby resident Michael Carttiss - Yarmouth's Conservative Member of Parliament from 1983-1997 and currently Norfolk County Council chairman - paid an informal visit to the trio in the US and Canada perhaps in the Seventies or Eighties and established links between them and us.

I am not fully sure, but I think another prominent local politician - the late Jack Chase, of Caister - also visited Yarmouth (Massachusetts), otherwise it is hard to fathom how he came to have a day named in his honour by our Transatlantic namesake.

In 1991, the board of selectmen (the equivalent of our town councillors) voted to make June 14 Jack Chase Day, which appeared to be an informal tongue-in-cheek parallel to our Freedom of the Borough. Also, I never discovered it every June 14 thereafter would bear his name, or only that in 1991.

The selectmen gave Jack a proclamation that declared: “Whereas Jack Chase has served local and municipal government for over 60 years in our sister community of Great Yarmouth; and whereas Jack Chase has represented the people of his community in a fair and equitable manner; and whereas that after 60 years of dedicated service, it is resolved that Mr Jack Chase is entitled to retirement to pursue a career as a golf professional; and whereas the town of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, is appreciative of Mr Chase's contributions to our sister community: now, therefore, be it resolved that we name Mr Jack Chase an honorary citizen of the town of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, United States of America, and confirm upon him an honorary membership in our two fine golf courses for his pursuit of stardom.”

Mr Chase was elected to Caister Parish Council in 1931, sat on Blofield and Flegg Rural District Council until local government reorganisation in 1974, then joining Yarmouth Borough Council that absorbed some of that old country area, including Caister. In addition to his work and council business, he also found time to play a round or two of golf, and had been captain, president and artisans' captain of the Yarmouth and Caister Golf Club.

This duplication of names became even more confusing a year ago when a former London Transport double-decker bus set off on a fundraising charity mission from California (Scratby, part of our Yarmouth)

to its better-known namesake in the US.

Many people enjoy a current fad of links - not golf, but forming an association chain about people,

places and events. So, here is

another.

In the mid-1950s, when Ronnie Ronalde was singing The Yarmouth Song on record and in person, on the other side of the Atlantic top vocalist Patti Page had a Top Ten hit with Old Cape Cod, a lilting melody occasionally aired today about the resort and community that is part of Yarmouth, Massachusetts. It was aired in the Bruce Willis action movie Die Hard 2.

There's more, as Irish comic Jimmy Cricket would say.

It was Patti Page who had a huge hit with How Much is that Doggy in the Window? - but in the UK her version of the song was eclipsed by Lita

Roza, the former singer with Ted Heath and his Music, those death I recorded recently because it jogged my memory of some of the

pleasures of that otherwise austere decade.

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