Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Jimmy Clitheroe

Its pantomime season and some months ago I came across an advert for a production of “ Dick Whittington” in Leek in the late 60s. The star of the show was Oldham born comedian Danny Ross better known as the gormless Alfie in the Clitheroe Kid a mainstay of radio comedy for many years. It seems that Danny was regular visitor to Leek, as it was just a short drive over the Pennines from his Lancashire home

I heard Jimmy Clitheroe’s show again recently on Radio 4 Extra. Clitheroe was present along with Alfie, Jimmy’s Scottish grandfather and his improbable sounding sister Susan who had an accent more suggestive of Roedean than Rawtenstall. To me the show was distinctly unfunny. I may have roared with laughter at it in 1964, but certainly not half a century later.

The “Clitheroe Kid” however is still evocative, recalling Sunday afternoons long ago where such programmes held the attention of all the family. It was a recognisable, innocent world where the wrestling is on the telly, and you have to scrape a few coins together to buy sweets.

I was speaking to someone who knew Clitheroe slightly. Jimmy had a Rolls Royce but even with padded seating his 4 foot 3 inch frame found it difficult to peer over the windscreen. My contact initially thought the driver’s seat was empty at their first meeting. He never grew taller than this, and even in middle age could easily pass for an 11-year-old boy. Clitheroe always performed rather spookily in school uniform even when taking part in radio shows.

He had been in show business for years and had performed with such stars of the music hall as Arthur Lucas and Frank Randle.

One of his catch phrase's was “I’m all there with me cough drops” (a Lancashire expression for someone quick-witted). When he got into a scrape - as he frequently did - his catchphrase was “Ooh, flippin’ ’eck”.

 He came to a sad end -dying of a sleeping pill overdose- on the day of his mother’s funeral. His shade came into my life unexpectedly when I visited Beverley and took part in a ghost walk some years ago. The guide mention a small “spirit “ seen to run along a wall “ It’s the ghost of Jimmy Clitheroe” said my companion