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How tickled we were, Doddy

Freda Gratton (second left) and Maureen Stancombe (second right) meet Ken Dodd, accompanied by Fylde mayor Coun John Singleton and mayoress Geraldine Singleton
Freda Gratton (second left) and Maureen Stancombe (second right) meet Ken Dodd, accompanied by Fylde mayor Coun John Singleton and mayoress Geraldine Singleton

Thanks for the memories, Doddy

Fylde’s mayor has joined two lifetime fans of Sir Ken Dodd in recalling their delight at meeting the legendary funnyman for the first time at one of his last-ever shows in a glittering career spanning six decades.

After years of attending the comedy star’s live performances, Maureen Stancombe from St Annes and Freda Gratton from Lytham shared a dream of meeting him one day – and thanks to the St Annes-based Just Good Friends group and the intervention of mayor Coun John Singleton, it came true at what was Doddy’s final show at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre last autumn.

“Sir Ken was wonderful to us that evening and we will always treasure the memory,” said Maureen, 79, following the star’s death on Sunday, aged 90.

“Just Good Friends’ wish list for members offers the chance for our dreams to come true, and we said we had always wanted to meet Sir Ken.

“We never dared imagine it would happen but with the mayor’s help, it did, and we are so grateful for that evening.

“We met him on stage beforehand, we had a lovely chat and the show was wonderful.

“In true Doddy fashion, it went on until after midnight, which was remarkable considering he was just a few days away from his 90th birthday.

“I was so sad to hear of death on my radio alarm first thing Monday but it was wonderful that he was able to perform for so long and he will always be remembered.

“I don’t think we will ever see his like again.”

Freda, 81, added: “We have seen Doddy so many times over the years and it was wonderful that our dream of meeting him came true.

“He was such a nice man and I was so sad to hear of his death.”

Just Good Friends’ bid to make Maureen and Freda’s dream come true last year appeared to have stalled until Coun Singleton spotted their ambitions to meet Sir Ken on a wish tree while attending to present a cheque.

“I contacted Sir Ken’s agent in London, his assistant Anne - later his wife – in Knotty Ash and the Grand Theatre chief executive to make them aware of the wish,” said Coun Singleton.

“A box was reserved, I arranged for the ladies to travel in the mayoral car and we were met on arrival.

“Straight away without any hesitation, Sir Ken said he would love to meet them backstage.

“He made a huge fuss of them, putting his arms around them and making them laugh. He made himself late for the curtain but that didn’t bother him at all.

“He seemed to be so pleased that he could make people happy.

“It was the first time I had met Sir Ken and it was such a pleasure.”

Just Good Friends founder Bev Sykes said: “I was so pleased that Maureen and Freda got their wish to meet Sir Ken and so grateful to the mayor and everyone who pulled together to make it happen.”

A book of condolence for Sir Ken has been set up at the Grand Theatre, where he played annually since helping to save it from the prospect of demolition in the late 1970s.

Grand chief executive Ruth Eastwood said: “Ken wasn’t just a performer at the Grand Theatre, he was a huge supporter of the venue.

“The thing I will always remember about Ken was his huge generosity.

“He would meet and talk to fans before and after every show. He was a proper star and will be very sadly missed.”