RETRO: The day that '˜thick' Sheffielders wrenched off Ernie's fingers
A letter in Retro a few weeks ago has led to the unearthing of the story of the time Eric Morecambe labelled Sheffielders thick.
The letter from Steven Davis of West View Lane, Totley Rise, was about pop art sculptor Nicholas Munro and it mentioned that he was commissioned to do a sculpture of Eric and Ernie.
Further investigation revealed it was unveiled in Weston Park, Sheffield on July 1 1978 but was vandalised just days later.
The 10ft 6ins fibreglass sculpture of the comic legends in their electric blue mohair suits showed Eric in trademark pose getting ready to slap Ernie’s face, but after it was damaged it was given back to the sculptor.
The statue had been due to spend six months outside the Mappin Art Gallery.
When Star reporter Clark Herron revealed to Eric that the sculpture had been damaged after two fingers were wrenched off Ernie’s left hand Eric didn’t see the funny side and labelled Sheffielders thick.
Well-known Luton Town fan Eric revealed that he didn’t particularly like the statue anyway, and said: “Ernie’s fingers? Oh I didn’t feel a thing. Now they know how I feel about Harry Haslam and Sheffield United.
“It’s rather sad, isn’t it? But that’s the way we are, we British. Look at Argentina – two days of celebrating after they won the World Cup, and hardly a window broken. Here you get a small crowd and they practically rape a town.
“We’re thick. We’re as thick as those two figures of Ernie and me. Nothing happened to it in London.
“This shows what they are in Sheffield – they must be slightly thicker.
“If they send me the fingers I’ll sign them.”
According to the Morecambe and Wise website “the statue was commissioned in 1977 by the Arts Council to form part of the British Genius exhibition at Battersea Park, London.
“Sculptor Nick Munro was invited to display it at a major sculpture exhibition in Regent Park, London.
“The local residents didn’t like it there either and produced a petition to have Eric and Ern removed.
“They called the statue ‘vulgar’, and in the end won the fight and it was moved.
“After a brief tour it finished up in Sheffield in July 1978 where local hooligans defaced them.”
Around 1980, the statue was given to furniture designer John Makepeace, who kept it in the grounds of Parnham House in Dorset for 20 years, until it was given back to Nick Munro and transported to a farm near Hungerford in Berkshire, where it was again damaged, this time after stones were thrown at Eric’s glasses.
Apparently, the statue is now in South Wales.