Tributes pour in for Blackpool summer season favourite

Van Doonican donned the bright orange suit of a lifeboatman and was taken on a trip onboard the RNLI inshore lifeboat with his wife Lynn, to mark the first fete of the Blackpool Lifeboat Station

Van Doonican donned the bright orange suit of a lifeboatman and was taken on a trip onboard the RNLI inshore lifeboat with his wife Lynn, to mark the first fete of the Blackpool Lifeboat Station

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Tributes have flooded in for former Blackpool summer season favourite Val Doonican who has died aged 88.

The genial Irishman was a firm family favourite during the 60s and 70s with a string of hit singles and albums, regular TV series and Christmas shows as well as stage appearances.

Born in Waterford, he came from a musical family and played the drums and guitar. He joined the Four Ramblers in 1951 in London. Eight years later he went solo and was soon hosting a radio show on the BBC and performing at Sunday Night at the Palladium in 1963.

His gently comic songs including Paddy McGinty’s Goat and Delaney’s Donkey along with hits Walk Tall and Elusive Butterfly made him a top ten star and he even knocked the Beatles off the top spot in the album charts with Val Doonican Rock, But Gently.

Val performed in Blackpool many times. His first summer season in the resort was a big hit. He played at “The Queen’s Show” at the Queen’s Theatre in Bank Hey Street throughout the summer of 1966.

He was top of the bill along with comedian Charlie Chester in a “happy” show with “plenty of zip and zest.”

The Gazette reported: “Val Doonican sings his way through a group of varied songs including one or two from his native Ireland in which his fine voice and style are enhanced by his charming and unassuming manner.”

He was voted TV personality of the year that year. In 1969 Val was back in the resort and stayed in a rented house in St Annes with his wife Lynn. The house was handy for Val as his hobbies included golf and he loved playing at Royal Lytham.

Once again he returned for a summer season in 1974 with “The Val Doonican Show”.

Val, famous for his sweaters, cardigans and for crooning a song or two from his trade-mark rocking chair, was also a talented artist and frequently knocked off a few sketches in his dressing room.

These he ended up selling to raise funds for Blackpool Meals on Wheels. More than 30 were put up for sale at The Quest in Clifton Street, Lytham raising £3,000.

Linda Nolan said Val, who retired in 2009, was a genuine, lovely man and a great talent.

She said: “People always ask us who were the nicest people we have worked with in showbusiness and Val was right up there at the top.

“A beautiful, fabulous man, he was so popular. He had a fabulous voice and reminded me of Bing Crosby. People used to watch his shows as a family.

“We were on his shows many times and worked on one of his famous Christmas specials.

“It was wonderful in this big house with a log fire and lovely people to work with. It was a great memory.

“He was on TV for 17 or 18 years and I think it broke his heart a little bit when they ended the run.

“It wasn’t because of a fall in ratings, he was still popular, it was because they wanted a change.”

Comedian and presenter Roy Walker said: “He was the consummate professional. In the early days I was his opening comedian and he was one of the most generous people in the business.

“He was a joy to be with, a pleasure to work with and one of the all-time good guys in the business.”