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The Irish charmer wowed the Yarmouth crowds

PUBLISHED: 20:12 25 February 2016 | UPDATED: 20:12 25 February 2016

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HARD AT WORK: Erie Resistor employees at the Great Yarmouth South Denes plant in August 1959. REF C1786.

MAIN HARD AT WORK: Erie Resistor employees at the Great Yarmouth South Denes plant in August 1959. REF C1786.

Archant

Terry Wogan brightened the mornings of millions of his BBC Radio Two listeners, the Peggottys included. Daily, we enjoyed his blend of our kind of music, interplay with colleagues, good-humoured whimsy and Irish blarney.

FLYING VISIT: Terry Wogan steps from his helicopter for a promotional engagement with retailer Currys in Yarmouth in 1978.
Picture: MERCURY LIBRARYFLYING VISIT: Terry Wogan steps from his helicopter for a promotional engagement with retailer Currys in Yarmouth in 1978. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

Who else could have resurrected a 1933 gramophone record discovered in the vaults and, by airing it on his radio show, transform it into a cult hit? Wogan did just that, with long-deceased German actor Conrad Veidt sombrely speaking a poem about a lighthouse across a bay to ponderous background music.

On his breakfast show on radio, there were regular contributions from fans, some using pseudonyms (like Willy Gofar and Mick Sturbs); one fan unembarrassed to be identified was Pauline Lynch, of Bradwell.

Before Terry Wogan was knighted in 2005, he visited Great Yarmouth several times, a mixture of broadcasting assignments and fulfilling “in person” publicity visits or being a star attraction to draw crowds to events. For example, he was the compere of BBC-TV’s Come Dancing heats when they were held in Yarmouth’s Tower Ballroom...and flew in by helicopter in 1978 for a promotional engagement at the Yarmouth store of Currys.

That engagement might well have been linked to the national retailer, listed in my 1972 Kelly’s Street Directory as “cycle dealer” in Regent Road, moving to the Market Place to enable its range to expand to incorporate televisions, radio and other items. Later Currys relocated to the Gapton retail estate.

Terry Wogan’s loquaciousness and ad-libbing were severely tested on another visit to Yarmouth, this time a live Outside Broadcast for BBC Radio 2 in the Seventies. On a summer bank holiday, he was located on our sea front, microphone switched on and at the ready, eager to describe thronging happy crowds waving their candy-floss, doffing their “Kiss Me Quick!” hats and licking their ice-creams as they enjoyed themselves in the so-called “Resorts that Have Everything”.

It was impossible not to assume that BBC producers never left the cosy ivory towers of Broadcasting House in London to experience the real world because they expected our Golden Mile and promenades to be pulsating with visitors...at 7.30 in the morning!

In his 2006 autobiography, Wogan mentioned this challenge to his powers of description and impromptu repartee.

He was outside an unspecified funfair – possibly the Pleasure Beach but more likely the more central Joyland near the Britannia Pier. Only a few early risers were in sight, and the only background sounds as he struggled to keep talking were the screech of seagulls and the crashing of waves on the shore, not the typical music from seafront amusements and enterprises and the excited chatter of holidaymakers embarking on another day in their seaside paradise.

Back in 1970, his picture was often published in the Mercury – not on our entertainments pages but in recruiting advertisements for Erie Electronics, one of the borough’s biggest employers along with Birds Eye Foods, both located on the South Denes but now long gone.

“Ladies! Keep fit and be swinging,” the advertisements urged. “Work for Erie, the firm that has chosen Terry Wogan, one of Radio 1’s most popular disc jockeys, top of the pops. He has been invited to attend Erie’s gala day.

“Keep fit by working shorter, more convenient shifts. Be swinging when you get 5s 5d (27 pence nowadays) plus 1s (5p) bonus. The shorter hours are great for busy mums wanting extra cash to spin out the rapidly vanishing housekeeping money, and to see new faces and do interesting work which can easily be learned in our training school.

“New hours...could earn you up to £8 10s a week.”

According to the Erie advertisement in the Mercury, full-time pay was £11 12s (£13 14s including bonus) at the age of 21 and over. For workers aged 18-20, the wage was £10 18s 3d (£13 0s 3d with bonus); for 16-17s, £10 5s 6d (£12 7s 6d with bonus); and for those aged 15, £8 9s 6p (£10 11s 6d with bonus).

An earlier advertisement offered potential workers the incentive of listening to Wogan’s radio show every afternoon as they worked.

The Erie gala day on the Wellesley Road recreation ground, attended by no fewer than 4,000 people, was hosted by “BBC disc jockey Terry Wogan”, as the Mercury report described him, and Sheila Bernette, one of the supporting entertainers in the Wellington Pier Pavilion summer show. It proved a successful fundraiser for charity.

The main event was the election of Miss Erie but, as the Mercury reported: “This year’s contest set a precedent – for a couple of minutes, a boy held the title!”

Fifteen-year-old Victor Keller, entering as “Vicki” and wearing padded brassiere, mini-dress and make-up, was chosen as Miss Erie, smiling demurely as Terry Wogan placed the winner’s sash over his shoulder...but then the star guest pulled off the Victor’s brown wig and unmasked him.

It was, I presume, all prearranged, with Wogan in on the joke, although the Mercury did state: “The crowd seemed to approve, though one or two of the contestants looked furious for a while.”

Victor the non-victor was persuaded to enter by some of Erie’s women employees who spent half an-hour making him up and preparing him.

The real Miss Erie 1970 title was awarded to 20-year-old laboratory assistant Linda Jary, the runners-up being Janice Patterson, 18, and Hazel Storey, 16.

Best crisp-eater was Jackie King, aged 16, followed by John Kerrison. The children’s fancy-dress competition winners were two-year-olds Tanya Webb and Andrew Smith, and Kevin Watson, aged 12. David Deacon and partner won the two-mile pram race.

Three hundred children submitted entries for the painting competition, won by Michael Woodcock, aged seven (Alderman Swindell School); Lionel Burrell, 11 (Wroughton Junior); Lesley Wright, 13 (Hospital); and Kevin Lake, 13, and Richard Whiley (Cliff Park Secondary).

All five won an aircraft flight over Yarmouth.

According to an unconfirmed rumour in Yarmouth, there was a dilemma when the appearance fee was due to be paid to Terry Wogan, but the money was in Erie’s safe at the South Denes offices and no authorised key-holder could be located that Sunday.

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