Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New Book Reveals Comedian's 'Forgotten' Shields Childhood

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New Book Reveals Comedian's 'Forgotten' Shields Childhood

Article excerpt

Byline: ZOE BURN

AS a boy, Danny Lawrence would close his eyes and imagine he could see him walking down his street. It wasn't a sight he had ever seen, or would ever see, but it was vivid in the youngster's imagination, fuelled by the tales he'd been told of a famous man called Stan Laurel who, like him, had spent his informative childhood years on North Tyneside.

"I have a lovely image of him walking from his father's theatre at the other end of Saville Street, past the bottom of the street where I used to live," smiles Danny. "He lived just a couple of hundred yards from where I did, and it was something I used to think about a lot as a child."

Now, some 60 years on, he has penned a book detailing the importance of those formative years that the iconic comedy actor - probably best known as half of the duo Laurel and Hardy - spent here on Tyneside.

"The time that Stan Laurel spent in North Shields tends to be completely overlooked by historians, and even the town itself," he reveals.

"You read things about him and it mentions he was born in Cumbria and went to school in Bishop Auckland, yet very few of them mention North Shields.

"But I firmly believe that the years he spent here were very important in moulding him into the man he eventually became. My whole motivation behind this book was to make people aware of the crucial importance of his time here."

Danny, 70, and a retired lecturer in sociology, lives in Nottingham with his wife Helen, who was born and raised in Cullercoats. Danny grew up in Norfolk Street, North Shields, just a few hundred yards from Stan's home in Dockwray Square.

He says: "He was here for about 10 years and precious little has ever been done to capitalise on the town's association with such an influential man.

"Walk into North Shields and, apart from Bob Olley's wonderful statue of him in Dockwray Square, and a plaque on the house where he lived, there is nothing to show for his time here.

"I've read so many biographies about him and it seems a whole chapter of his life is missing. I was even more shocked when I read in one such book that North Shields was a mill town!" Since taking early retirement from the University of Nottingham, Danny has spent years researching his subject, and believes the evidence that Laurel's time here was what formed his career, is quite startling.

Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, Cumbria on June 16, 1890 and, shortly after, his parents moved to North Shields, where his father leased and ran a number of local theatres, including one in the town centre.

This influence quickly rubbed off on the young Stan, who dreamed of working in the business like his dad.

"As a youngster, he would be out in the backyard putting on shows and, when the family moved to a bigger house, he persuaded his father to build him a little theatre in the attic," said Danny. …

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