Friday May 3rd 2003 saw a goodly number of club members descend on the Leisure Hotel, Skegness for our annual weekend get-together. We took my father and mother in-laws with us once again, setting off from Chorley at 8.00am to travel the 180 miles in absolutely dreadful weather conditions. Thankfully, by the time we reached 30 miles North of Skegness the weather improved with the Sun coming out and remaining with us for the entire Bank Holiday weekend.
We were just a little apprehensive on arrival as the new owners of the Hotel (who had only taken over 2 weeks before our arrival) were still getting everything ready for our arrival and hadn’t expected us to arrive as early as we did (12 noon). Two other members (Janis and Derek Gude) had arrived shortly before us, to be met like us, with loads of clean laundry swamping the reception and lounge area, and I must admit we were in a bit of a state of shock to say the least.
It is a tremendous responsibility organising these annual weekends, but thankfully when Amanda, our absolutely delightful hostess showed us up to our rooms (which thankfully had been among the first to be done), they were wonderfully clean and presentable, so it was with renewed confidence that we decided to have lunch in a lovely café right next door and then have a walk along the front and then down to the shopping area later in the afternoon where we bumped in to club members Alan and Sandra Hodges from Wales.
We went into a café with them for a coffee, and were joined by John Hutchinson, and then went back to the hotel late afternoon where we were quite amazed at the transformation that had taken place. Everything had been tidied away and the place nice and clean, and by evening meal time at 7.00 am every member had arrive safe and sound (though three were arriving the next day).
The evening meal like all of them were lovely, and we were very well looked after indeed by Amanda, her husband Christian, her step-father Jimmy and young Amanda, a lovely 14 year old who served the meals for us with Amanda number 1!!
Amanda, though only very recently taking over, and being left with a number of problems relating to the hotel, not the least being a staff shortage, couldn’t do enough for us. She was a bundle of energy and was more than willing to let us set the tables out as we wanted them for the next couple of days, which was very much appreciated I can assure you.
The dining room doubled up as the function room at night, and I had set up all our sound equipment prior to our evening meal so we were able to listen to Rick’s music gently playing in the background during the meal, and then we all decided to go to the large lounge area where I took one part of the sound equipment which has the amplifier inside a speaker, and set it up.
We didn’t have any entertainment on Friday night, as past practise has proved that everyone just wanted to talk and renew friendships, but Guy Clover had brought his guitar with him all the way from Cornwall, and we were all soon singing along into the VERY small hours!!! - absolutely a wonderful, tremendous atmosphere I can assure you. Obviously, not everyone was up until the early morning, but by 3.00 am when I dragged my soon to be 80 year old father-in-law to bed, there were still around eight or nine just sitting and talking!!
The next day was a free day for everyone, and most just seemed to want to explore Skegness after the night before, though Zoe & Mel Bridges took Daniel & Maria Bacelar from Portugal to see the Humber Bridge and their caravan at Bridlington, and I’m told they had a wonderful time. Daniel and Maria weren’t the only overseas guests, as Ann Theriault had once again come over from the USA, and had travelled up to Skegness form London along with Julie Hall and Daniel and Maria which I am sure was quite a ‘relaxed’ trip—much better than both Alan & Sandra Hodges and Ken and Jenny Parker where because of roadworks, traffic congestion and ‘certain other motorists’!! It took the three and a half hours to do no more than 70 miles!!! The previous day.
Anyway, I digress. Seven of us decided to walk down to the beach and get some fresh air. Syl and I together with the in-laws, Alan and Sandra Hodges and Guy Clover had a nice walk along the prom. Guy missed out on breakfast as he was catching up on some sleep from the night before and a long train journey from Cornwall, decided he wanted some breakfast as we drew near this beach-side food outlet. Alan didn’t need much persuasion to join him, so after they had gotten their ‘nourishment’ we dicided to walk along the pear and through the Amusement Arcade at the opposite end.
We decided we would have a look in at the Laser Game and Ten Pin Bowling Alley as we all wanted to use the toilets, and Guy fancied a go in the Laser Game thing (like paint balling but with lasers), but suddenly, the manageress of the Bowling alley came over to us as we were standing around and asked if she could help. Well, the outcome was that after some negotiation she fixed all seven of us up with the most magnificent afternoons entertainment of 3 hours for just £22.50!! - just over £3.00 per person!! As it was quiet, and a few of us were ‘pensionable age’ she did all but 3 on the pension rate and gave us a free game to boot.
Guy and the in-laws had never been ten pin bowling before, and I don’t think Alan and Sandra had either; but we DID have a tremendous time believe me. We were able to get a drink or two there, and put the side channel guides up, which only added to the fun. John and Mare especially enjoyed it with John getting over 100 in the second game, and not bouncing off the sides once!! Of course we mentioned it to everyone at dinner that night to much laughter and applause!
Saturday evening came and just before the meal, Darrell Higham and the Enforcers arrived and began setting up their equipment. I invited them to join us for a meal as they hadn’t had time to eat on the long journey up from London, and Darrel was very relaxed, especially as they were guests of ours by stopping overnight, meaning they could really relax after their gig.
We were joined just after their meal by club member Pam Poole and her husband who had made the short journey up from near Boston especially for the evening, and it was a great pleasure to meet them. The meal as always was excellent, and everyone looked forward to the evening’s entertainment—and we were not to be disappointed.
Darrel and the guys were magnificent. Their first set lasted an hour and after a short break they treated us to a ‘Ricky Nelson’ set where they sang mostly ricky numbers—superbly! Darrell told us that they were busy recording a ‘tribute’ CD of Rick’s though he didn’t like using the term ‘tribute’. Be assured we will keep you informed of developments, but I can tell you—we will not be disappointed.
All too soon their set was over—over 2 hours of truly outstanding music, and we can’t thank the guys enough for once again coming along to our annual weekend. Darrell and the guys sat at a table at the back for an hour just happy to talk and enjoy a drink or three, and to sign copied of a CD that they had brought with them. And then like the rest of us, retired to the lounge to carry on talking and drinking (like the rest of us).
It was well after 2.30am when Syl and I called it a night, leaving the rest of the insomniacs singing with Guy and his guitar—but Guy really loves it, and if he will forgive the pun—he really is a great ‘Guy’. Guy is, if he will forgive the pun—he really is a great ‘Guy’. Guy is at this moment forming his own group, and all should be in place in time for next year’s get-together in the West Country, but more about that later.
We didn’t see Darrell or Guy next morning for breakfast as we were all up reasonably early ready for the relaxing and unwinding coach trip through the lovely Lincolnshire countryside, which was very nice. Upon arrival back at the hotel, we had a club meeting to decide what form future get-togethers should take in view of the sad fact that Harry Kershaw has now officially stepped down permanently from the position of Social Secretary. Over the years, Harry has done a truly tremendous job with the able help of Dianna his wife his wife.
They had been organising these get-togethers since 1987 until Julie and Andrew Hall did it in 2001 and 2002. Harry had hoped to step back into the breach as it were for this years ‘do’, but was unable to do it as they were busy organising Becky’s wedding in May this year, and felt it unfair to leave things in limbo for future years.
I stepped into the breach as it were to organise this year’s function, but haven’t got the time to do it every years as just running the club and putting the newsletter together (and a 20 month old grand-daughter) ANF a full time job really does take up a tremendous amount of my time.
Anyway, at this meeting it was decided that three parties would take over organising the get-togethers. Alan Hodges and I would oversee next year’s get-together in the West Country (2004); Margaret Bartlett and Julie Hall would do it in the South East in 2005; and Zoe & Mel Bridges would look after the 2006 get-together in the North of England, and then we would take it from there.
I also mentioned an email I got from Peggy O’Neal regarding the possibility of one-time Ricky band member and writer of some of Rick’s songs, Dennis Larden, coming over next year on a short tour, and about his possibly coming along for our weekend to perform. Those who came along on our 2002 USA trip will remember Denny being with us during our time in Nashville, and the thought and idea of him coming along was very well received. I will go into this more later.
Anyway, following the meeting we went straight into dinner and at coffee time, we had a very special function to perform. It was my father-in-laws 80th birthday the following week, but we presented him with a special tankard with the inscription…. “To John Stirrup on his 80th Birthday from his friends the R.N.I.C” (the Ricky Nelson International Club).
The tankard and birthday card were presented to John by Margaret Bartlett, and John was so overcome that he struggled to open the present and card—the first time I’ve seen him struggle for words fore a few moments. John is very loved by all as they have got to know him over the past five years, and this feeling is on both sides—just ask Terry, Guy, Derek, Janis, Margaret, Zoe & Mel et all of a very special time at around 1.00am when John gave us a heart-rending interpretation of the Slim Whitman classic “When I’m Calling You”!!!!
Once again I have digressed as this very special Slim Whitman episode took place after a truly wonderful evening’s entertainment from John Allison who most of you will remember was one half of the famous Allisons from way back in the early 60’s and had several chart toppers in the UK, the most notable being “Are You Sure” a tremendous successful million seller here and across the world, and was also runner up in the Eurovision Song contest in 1961—not like the song the UK had in this year’s contest when it finished bottom with no points at all. I shudder to think where music (if you can call it that) is going these days.
I digress again, but John’s family organised a special night in Eccleston in the New Institute. We had 70 people there of all ages, and I did the music, and really just played midi-discs I had recorded for our Ricky do’s (all music from 1958-1962) including a sing-a-long midi disc from that era. I did it all on video for John, and when Syl and I edited it the following week, we didn’t edit anything out, but left the lot on, and the atmosphere was tremendous with all the singing and dancing. The comments are still coming through about the ‘best disco and music they’ve ever heard’! This is NOT about me—but about the music that we all love. It amazed me how many were singing along to the ricky songs I had included—and some of these were people in their early 20’s!.
Anyway, John Allison treated us virtually non-stop for well over 2 hours, and It was a very informal affair whereby John gave a running commentary of how the Allisons started up in the business; how they were very badly led and let down by their management to the point that the most John had in his pocket was around £150.00!! Whereas they should have been worth considerably more in view of the success they had enjoyed.
He really did entertainment, especially with the story of his agent saying that they wanted him to do the Eurovision Song Contest, and John had no idea what this entailed as he had never seen it, and his agent said that it was rather like ‘Come Dancing’ only you sing rather than dance!!
John certainly has a great talent for singing, and the harmonies with his backing tape were spot on, and had us all singing along with songs by Buddy Holly, The Everley’s (which were really good, and of course our own Ricky who was much to the fore.
John told us that The Allisons were very big Ricky Nelson fans and told how MANY USA & UK artists were told (like themselves) to sing and haver backing like Ricky Nelson songs!
I think John warmed to his audience and the relaxed atmosphere, and despite saying he had to leave early to run his agent hom at around 1.00am—it was after I’d gone to bed at 2.30am when he left. I’m told it was nearer 3.30am—and he had to drive back to Lincoln some 50 miles away!!
I’m sure that we will be seeing John Allison again at one of our functions. If any of you however get the chance to see him—you won’t be disappointed; neither would you be if you went along to see Darrel Higham, and can catch his website at www.darrelhigham.co.uk.
One final little bit of news related to the Sunday night…. I was at the bar early evening when someone appeared over my left shoulder. I looked round and it was long-lost member Ken Hopkins from Loughborough.
Ken had been a loyal member of some years until losing touch about 3 years ago. He happened to check our web site on the Saturday of our weekend festivities, and saw that we had John Allison on on the Sunday, so travelled up to see us, which was excellent news, especeially as we welcomed him back into the club. He told me that he had missed us all and the weekend get-togethers—so no excuses for future ones Ken. Welcome Back!
It was once again sad farewells next morning (Monday) as friends said their farewells till next year, though I understand that Ann Theriault is popping over from the USA to spend a break with Guy Clover and his family later in the year.
It was great seeing everyone again, especially Ann and Daniel & Maria who had once again come over from Portugal. But I remind you that we welcome new friends to join us (and old ones we haven’t seen for some time) and assure you ALL of a warm and friendly welcome.