How comedian Frank Randle crashed his car into a Blackpool tram and pirouetted for police to try and prove he was sober

Memories of younger days at Blackpool Tower were stirred when I was privileged to be among movers and shakers of City Livery companies on their annual ‘away day’ – writes Barry Band.

By Claire Lark
Saturday, 30th July 2022, 4:55 am

London's Square Mile had come to the Golden Mile for the Brigantes Breakfast, a tradition of the City personalities who live in the North of England.

The Brigantes were the tribes who occupied parts of the North a few centuries before the medieval founding of the Livery companies.

Blackpool has a 21st century link through the Brigantes' chief guest at the Tower, Sir Andrew Parmley, who was Lord Mayor of the City of London in 2016/17.

Erin Boag and Ian Waite entertain

Sir Andrew is an old boy of Blackpool Grammar School and is a trustee of Showtown, the soon-to-open Blackpool Museum of Entertainment.

You'll be wondering how your Retro contributor got in on the Tower party.

It was thanks to entertainer Johnny Ball, a former president of Lancastrians in London, who launched this Tower event in the fifth floor theatre with a talk about Blackpool's comedy heritage.

Johnny also lived in the Blackpool area in his younger days and he asked me for a few anecdotes about comedians who worked here.

Chief guest Sir Andrew Parmley

One of the best stories involved that rumbustious Lancastrian Frank Randle (1901-57) who lived in the resort and did stout service to stage and bar. The saloon bar!

Yours truly had given Johnny this story from the 1952 season at the Central Pier, when Randle was ordered to clean up his act.

He stayed late in his dressing room, restoring the approved script and, very likely, emptying a bottle or two. At 5am he was homeward bound in his Lagonda saloon when he managed to collide with a stationary tram in Manchester Square.

The police appeared, on cue, and Frank gave them his "proof of sobriety" routine, doing a ballet pirouette around the car.

Johnny Ball gives his talk

He bowed and asked the constables: "Could I do that if I were drunk?"

The magistrates had heard it all before!

After Johnny's humorous talk, more than 300 Brigantes and guests moved down to the ornate Tower Circus for pre-lunch drinks and chat before assembling in the ballroom for a superb lunch and entertainment.

They were welcomed by Martin Ainscough DL, High Sheriff of Lancashire.

Phil Kelsall was his usual brilliant self on the Wurlitzer, with chief guest Sir Andrew Parmley FRCO (Fellow of the Royal College of Organists) only a few feet away.

Then came a dynamic dance set by Strictly Come Dancing stars Erin Boag and Ian Waite. Ten all round!

Several members of the Brigantes were up for more thrills - up to the Tower top to walk on the sheet of glass, 500 feet above the promenade.

As I said at the start, memories were stirred by my Tower day out. I can report that the queen of the prom is looking great after much remedial work and is well worth a visit.

Next week: We resume the A to Z series of Blackpool bill-toppers.