Bobby Ball seems to have appeared on television since I was a nipper (real name was Robert Harper.) He was half of comic double act Cannon and Ball with his famous red braces. Here I am the church where the funeral service was held; also the crematorium where he was turned to dust. I also found his final home.
He was born in Oldham near the end of the Second World War After school he worked as a welder where he also met his future partner Thomas Derbyshire (better known as Tommy Cannon). They started singing on the club circuit but switched to comedy. Success crawled slowly and Bobby was 35 years old by the time the duo appeared on television. Their prime-time Saturday night television series The Cannon and Ball Show carried high ratings for twelve years. They earned millions of pounds and splashed it round - matching gold Rolls-Royces, beachfront homes in the Canary Islands and a 42ft cabin cruiser. They even bought Rochdale football club. It’s rumoured Bobby put £500,00 into buying a local nightclub (aptly named 'Braces'.)
When Bobby was 39 things turned soured behind the scenes. On stage comedy sparked but off screen the famous duo barely spoke. It lasted for about three years. By accident Bobby got chatting with a chaplain one day and blasted him about the non-existence of God. The chaplain had something about him that Bobby was missing - a serenity and perfect ease with himself. On another day he met the chaplain and they prayed and “it just changed my life – like that,” he said. He became a Christian which helped mend his fractured friendship with Tommy Cannon (who also became a Christian.) They even published a book together called Christianity for Beginners and went around the country appearing in churches with a gospel version of "An Audience With..."
Bobby was 44 when the dream melted away. The Cannon and Ball Show ended and the lucrative seaside summer season work dried up. Tommy Cannon was eventually declared bankrupt when he couldn’t pay an £800,000 tax bill.
Aged 65 Bobby was cast as Frank in the long-running BBC One Sitcom Not Going Out and became a recurring fixture. His last appearance was in the eleventh season which was broadcast a few weeks before his death. He married twice - first aged 20 (and had two sons) and then aged 30 (and had a daughter.) He died at Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital aged 76.
I visited the church in Lytham where the funeral service was held, the crematorium where he was turned to dust and also his home. I thought he may have lived on Islay where most of the Lytham multi-millionaires were but found his detached home on in St Anne's close to the shops. It overlooked a pretty park with pond and ducks. Nothing ostentatious. I did a salute and left.
The view onto the park...