Norman Collier (25th December 1925 to 14th March 2013)

 

Like most people I can remember the comedian Norman Collier for his often-imitated ‘faulty microphone’ routine (and his impressions of a chicken.)

 

On a drive up to Scarborough I decided to go an unusual way up through Hull to see if I could find his grave. I found the large St Mary’s church in the middle of Welton village where the funeral service had been administered. The village was so picturesque I was surprised it hadn’t been used as filming location for Poirot or Midsomer Murders. I stopped the car and had a cheese sandwich and drank in coffee as well as the scene before me: ducks sleeping by a stream, a green...er...village green, mature trees, handsome country houses, well-trimmed hedges. I got out and had a walk around the ancient church and only found ancient graves. Mmmm, no sign of Norman even though the funeral service had been held here. I ensured I got walking alongside a woman who was probably local as she wasn’t carrying anything. She was a native and Norman and his family lived just off the centre of the village opposite her friend’s home. Oddly she didn’t know where the nearest cemetery lay.

 

I had a bit of look round the village listening to a play that was approaching its dramatic zenith. There didn’t seem to be a newer churchyard to absorb the recent dead. I branched off odd streets hoping they’d lead to a churchyard but I ended up returning to my car to view scribbles in my notebook. “Common L” said a scrawl and I guessed this was Common Lane. I put it in my Sat-Nav and was glad to see it existed.

 

Minutes later I parked on a road with a dilapidated commercial building on it. No church, no spire, no crucifix, no people - only a deserted boarded-up commercial building with boarded-up or smashed windows. I put my hand in and helped free a butterfly that was bashing itself on a pane of glass. A tenant texted to say the toilet was leaking. Not an emergency thankfully.

 

Across the road some railings held in a hodge-podge of odd head stones. Off to the left some high hedges opened out to modern graves - always aesthetically disappointing compared with the ornate old stones ones. Norman’s was easy to find and I saw “Comedy Legend” on the headstone before I saw his name.

 

Not sure about legend but he was an old-fashioned comic - no swearing, no talking about big willies, periods, vomit, condoms, toxic trumps (like most modern comedians who aren’t funny.)

 

Norman was born on Christmas Day in 1925 and not far from his final resting place. He grew up in the centre of Hull and was the eldest over seven brothers and sisters. Aged 17 he joined the Royal Navy and was a gunner towards the end of the Second World War. When the war was over he found work as a labourer. Aged 23 he was in Perth Street West club in Hull when an act failed to turn up. Norman volunteered to fill in and was such a natural performer he started working a few local clubs. He wasn’t professional yet and through the day was working do British Petroleum. He made his workers laugh and his bosses encouraged him to get on the northern working club scene but he was 37 before he became a full-time.

 

He made occasional appearances on television but was more comfortable on the northern club circuit. His trademark piece was pretending to be a club compere whose microphone is working intermittently. Television never did him justice (he wouldn’t appear on The Comedians) and he saved his detailed performances for the clubs. Having said that at 45 he easily won an ITV series Ace of Clubs in which club entertainers performed against one another before a panel of judges.

 

A traditionalist by nature he led a traditional life living quietly in Welton with Lucy, his wife of sixty years, and three children. His autobiography Just a Job encapsulated his view of life. Life was the family and the comedy life was a job.

 

He developed Parkinson’s disease and died in a nearby residential nursing home aged 87.

 

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The churchyard was behind some hedges on a quiet cul-de-sac lane…

 

Looking for the grave of…

 

 

The graves were looked on by two teddy bears which looked like they had survived a few rainfalls…

 

Having a coffee with Norman…

 

The neighbouring headstone held some wise words…