Laurel & Hardy Statue to Be Unveiled
by Richard W. Bann
“The SONS own the statue!” With this declaration Eric Woods at last concluded SONS OF THE DESERT fund-raising efforts for life-size figures of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy to stand in the County Square in Ulverston, England, Laurel’s home town.
“We reached our target of £58,593.72p on 6th March,” Mr. Woods announced recently. “In the coming days, we will legally hand (the statue) over to the good folk of Ulverston as a debt-free gift to the town.”
Eric Woods has long served as chairman of the Laurel & Hardy statue appeal fund and has been the driving force behind the solicitation of SONS chapters around the world to contribute money towards realizing this dream. It has taken years, but finally the sum of £58,593.72p was collected and remitted to finish the artistry and construction work.
With the job completed and the foundry paid in full, the statues are now ready to be placed in Ulverston’s County Square in front of Coronation Hall, which is fitting because the comedy team actually did visit there in person and greeted fans from the balcony during one of their European tours in the 1950s. Also, this city square area has just been renovated, the town having lavished £500,000 upon improvements for the site and the neighborhood.
The statues will be unveiled on Sunday, April 19, presided over by the Mayor of Ulverston (who we can at least hope will be a Billy Gilbert-type). Also officiating will be Ken Dodd, a comedy name known throughout England and a friend and colleague of the late husband of Lois Laurel, the beloved Tony Hawes. Mr. Dodd will arrive for the occasion in a Model T Ford driven by a pair of happy Laurel & Hardy impersonators certain to make a grand entrance.
Lois Laurel wishes she could attend the ceremony but is not inclined to do international traveling these days. When told of the latest news about the statue, however, her enthusiastic response was, “It pleases me greatly that after fifteen years of hard work, the SONS have been able to achieve this objective. And I am thrilled to learn that Ken Dodd will be there to orchestrate the event.”
The Unveiling of “The Boys”
by Art Westbrook
The big day started with the sunshine cracking the paving stones in the newly refurbished County Square, everywhere looked newly polished and inviting; the sky was a deep blue without a cloud to be seen. There was an air of anticipation as contractors were busy dismantling the wooden protective structure hiding “The Boys”; when the wood was taken down we were greeted with a wonderful shimmering draped cloth still hiding “The Boys”. The cloth is a work of art in its own right; there were bowler hats and music notes all over the white back ground. People of all ages were genuinely excited and with the sunshine, all were determined to make it another Carnival day, (of which Ulverston is famous for).
Many Sons of the Desert had travelled from all parts of the world and were even having their photos taken next to the beautiful protective cloth in anticipation of the great event that was to unfold later in the day. The town bands set up with bright polished brass instruments, were wearing their smart uniforms, and were playing medleys from “The Boys” films. The town was now awake to the fact that something big was in the air.
The Lady Mayoress Mrs. Janet Jenkinson introduced various members who had all had a lot of input into bringing the Laurel and Hardy statue (with laughing gravy the dog) to Stan’s place of birth, Ulverston. She then introduced Mr.Ken Dodd OBE, great entertainer and guardian of Dickie Mint. Ken is a lifelong fan of The Boys and was honoured to unveil the statue, there was a big countdown from the crowd of over 2,000 people and then the cover was lifted to cheers and loud applause, the Sons of the Dessert burst into song and Ulverston Town Band joined in with rousing music.
TV crews from National and Local TV all took photos and made films of the event and these have been shown on the TV programmes on both Sunday and Monday evening.
Everyone had a wonderful day and if it had not been for the late Great Bill, Cubin this would not have happened. Bill started his Museum in Ulverston and went on to meet people from all over the world; travelling to meet people near, and far – thanks Bill.
Ulverston is a great market town and we would like to extend a warm invitation to one and all to come and meet the boys and enjoy this wonderful town the birthplace of Arthur Stanley Jefferson.
This is a note from Mark Greenhow – Bill Cubin’s Grandson.
What a day for Laurel and Hardy fans all over the world. In the beautiful sunshine, in front of around 2000 people and after 17 years of fundraising from the Sons of the Desert; The Laurel and Hardy statue was unveiled. It was a big day for us in the museum too, our very first day in our new premises. Nails were bitten short wondering how the Sons were going to react to a new, more modern looking place but feedback was good and people seemed to be enjoying looking at the information. Still lots of work to do before the convention next weekend, but mostly it went down well. However, that is enough about us, what about the statue. I had a different view to most people as I arrived right at the last moment, having shooed the last visitors over to the Coronation Hall, and found myself right around the side, standing on a wall. I did not see much of the unveiling but I did get a great view of all the happy faces.
Even though the crowds have now gone, 'the boys' are very rarely alone. Every time I walk past there is someone with their arm around one or the other either scratching their head or twiddling their tie. Long may it continue!
Mark Greenhow, Manager Laurel and Hardy Museum
The statue was installed on April 1st and was kept under cover until Ken Dodd and Dickey Mint officially opened it on April 19th 2009. Click here to view photos of both events.