It’s not The Merry Makers but The Planets!

IT is always heartening when readers contact me or the Mercury editor, either passing on information that forms the basis of another column or responding with additional facts about one already published. My thanks to you all.

My two-part feature about Ferryside, the former Victorian gentlemen’s residence in High Road, Gorleston, that has just handed its long role as the local registry of births, deaths and marriages to Yarmouth Central Library, brought a letter from regular correspondent Cecilia Ebbage, of Lovewell Road.

Mrs Ebbage, now 94, reckons the interior damage to Ferryside I mentioned was probably the result of a German parachute mine landing near the Half Way House pub a short distance away in 1943, the explosion leaving “a huge crater”.

“The following morning workmen managed to clear a space just wide enough for the bus to get across.

This was outside the garden of Major Combe (who built Ferryside adjacent to his maltings business). Being a parachute mine it had spread out across the surface of the road in rather a different way from an ordinary high-explosive bomb. The spread across that corner on to Southtown Road must have been 80 yards, the largest I have ever seen.”

Gorleston’s St Andrew’s Parish Church has a memorial to Edward Combe who was a warden and benefactor, she says.

One Ferryside occupant was Dr William Wyllys, and she agrees with the compiler of the building’s history, Trevor Nicholls, that “it was quite a sight to see him leaving to visit his patients, always with a buttonhole of a carnation.”

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Mrs Ebbage used to work for the doctor’s lawyer brother, George Harvey Wyllys, “and strangely enough, I think they probably were descended from the famous William Harvey who discovered operating on the heart about 400 years ago!” Several of the Wyllys family used Harvey as a middle name.

She also refers to another local lawyer, Charles Palmer (1805-88), renowned for his comprehensive and unique three-volume Perlustrations of Great Yarmouth.

In August he was commemorated by a blue plaque being affixed to his old home – 4 South Quay, the historic Elizabethan House reputed to be the place where the death warrant for King Charles I was signed.

When Palmer died, the next occupant was Samuel Aldred, founder of the auctioneering business based at his renowned dwelling.

After 4 South Quay passed to the National Trust, his spinster grand-daughter moved to Gorleston to live in “a lovely old Georgian house”

Mrs Ebbage believes faced High Street, with “the most lovely back garden bordering on Duke Road (now a car park)”.

Mrs Ebbage, who sometimes used to chat with Miss Aldred, says the garden contained two lovely mulberry trees; after Miss Aldred died, Mrs Ebbage’s friend Mary Guyton – who lived on Lowestoft Road – collected the fruit until vandals struck.

Next, local concert parties of yesteryear: I published a contributed photograph of the Merrymakers and, alongside it, one of three young women in identical dresses whom I suggested were members of the same group as the picture was from the same source. Wrong!

John Mobbs, of St George’s Court in Yarmouth, said the comely trio were in fact members of The Planets “who performed in village halls etc in the early 1920s.”

His mother, Hilda Clark, was one of the three in the picture. She worked in the millinery department of Bonings, a shop in the town centre where Marks and Spencer has traded for many years.

Another Planet was his father, Henry Mobbs, a Town Hall employee in the borough treasurer’s department. The couple married in 1923.

And from amateur productions to star professional ones...and ex-Mercury colleague Tony Mallion enquired here if anyone recalled a harmonica player giving miniature mouth organs to children in the audience of a Regal show starring ventriloquist Peter Brough with dummy Archie Andrews.

One who responded was Mike Whurr, of Sussex Road, Gorleston, who says it was in weekly variety in the 1950s, and harmonica virtuoso Ronald Chesney was a main supporting act, just as he was on Peter Brough and Archie Andrews’ popular BBC radio show.

“Children were given the small harmonica players so they would accompany Ronald Chesney in part of his act,” recalls Mike. “On the wireless Ronald developed a way of speaking to Archie with his harmonica.”

Six decades on, it is hard to believe a big-name act on radio was a ventriloquist. I wonder if his lips moved when he knew nobody would see him...

The topic of Yarmouth Speedway and “who’s who” in a couple of team photographs, plus a follow-up feature, attracted plenty of feed-back - including 86-year-old Mrs Joan Gunton, of Mill Lane, Bradwell, keeping her promise to send me pictures from her 1952 Yarmouth Bloaters v Poole Pirates coveted programme.

Tony Utting, of Beccles Road, Gorleston, sent me programmes for a world championship qualifying round and Britain v Overseas, both ridden at the Caister Road stadium, and England v Australia at the Firs in Norwich, all in 1953, plus A Pocket-size History of Defunct Speedway Tracks devoted to the Yarmouth Bloaters with a cover simulating the programmes many of us avidly collected weekly.

Tony also mused on some rider identities we examined here this summer and mentioned Ronnie Genz as a possibility rather than Terry Courtnell.

But he stresses: “I am not saying it is not Terry Courtnell and is Ronnie Genz – it’s just I am going on those photographs (in programmes he sent me) and I do accept there are quite a few people with far better knowledge on this subject than myself, as my own memories are the clouded memories of a seven to 12-year-old lad!”

Over half a century later, whoever is right or wrong is immaterial, Tony.

Studying the photographs, and jogging the memory-bank to delve into details long gone, is a major part of the pleasure of nostalgia.

I hope all old Yarmouth Speedway fans enjoyed it as much as I did.