Scorn poured on statue of Eric's sidekick

WHILE Morecambe's Eric statue continues to bring sunshine to all who see it, storm clouds are gathering over a brand new stone sculpture of Ernie.

Little more than 10 years after our Eric was cast in bronze and given pride of place on Morecambe promenade, a stone statue of Ernie Wise has been winched into the centre of Morley, Leeds.

However, the statue – close to the spot where Ernie made his first stage appearance – has received a somewhat lukewarm re-ception with early visitors saying it 'looks nothing like the star'.

The Daily Express reported that onlookers were left scratching their heads over who the 9ft figure tipping his hat actually was.

One council official said: "We waited ages for this and I can't see any likeness at all. They had better put a name plate on it." The 10ft sculpture, by artist Melanie Wilks, will be officially unveiled on March 19 by Ernie's wife, Doreen Wiseman who helped to pay for the tribute.

Ernie is depicted as he looked in the 1970s, at the height of Morecambe and Wise's success.

He is captured in his famous pose with one leg kicked out, wearing a striped blazer and clut-ching a cane and straw boater.

In 2008, Gra-ham Ibbeson, who sculpted the bronze statue of Eric unveiled by the Queen in 1999, said he hoped to add Ernie in Morecambe in 2009.

He said: "It would be great to celebrate their lives again and keep their memory alive. I have a working model of the pair of them in typical pose." Earlier that year, it was decided that the Leeds area should pay tribute to Ernie Wise in the same way that Morecambe had, and have a statue made.

After fundraising and 8,000 donated by Ernie's wife, Doreen, artist Melanie Wilks was commissioned to design and make the piece and the rest is history.

Over the years, the statue of Eric has drawn thousands of visitors and is seen as a key part of the regeneration of Morecambe's promenade.

An award of 923,000 has been made by The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help improve 'Eric's View' of the Art Deco and Victorian buildings in the heart of Morecambe.

To go ahead with the scheme, Lancaster City Council now needs to secure funding to match the HLF contribution.

Subject to the matchfunding being found, the project is likely to be launched later this year.