WHEN Julie Richardson went out carol singing as an 11-year-old, little did she know it would be the start of a love affair with showbusiness.
Within a year, Julie was playing the pubs and clubs in her home town of Mexborough, in South Yorkshire – experience which would come in extremely handy in years to come as she toured the world playing alongside some of the biggest names in showbiz.
As a school pupil Julie had no idea she would become friends with some of Britain’s most famous comic stars.
In fact, her only ever-so-slight link to a celebrity back in those days was that she went to school with the cousin of Brian Blessed.
Back in those days Julie, like any other aspiring teenage singer, would have scoffed at any suggestion that 10 years later she would find herself performing at gigs alongside the likes of Jimmy Savile, Bob Monkhouse and Roy Castle.
But that’s exactly what she ended up doing.
From Filey to Turkey and South Africa to Thomson holiday camps throughout Europe, Julie took to the stage and in doing so befriended the stars who entered the hearts of millions appearing on television every week.
Now, 30 years after retiring as a professional singer and starting her own business in Hartlepool, Julie lives happily on the Headland.
She moved to Peterlee during her performing days in the 1960s with her first husband, Billy Fontayne, who she had three children to, Shayne, 49, Stephen, 48, and Billy, 45.
She left the area, but then moved back to Hartlepool with her second husband, Clive, who died of a heart problem in 1992.
The 69-year-old mum-of-three always enjoys looking back on the years she spent performing.
Julie chats openly about the stars she performed alongside, describing Jimmy Savile as a “Jack-the-lad”, Frankie Howerd as “an introvert” and joking that Freddie Starr was “an absolute nightmare”.
Freddie ‘Parrot Face’ Davies, Ted Rogers, Norman Collier and Barbara Windsor were others Julie befriended.
“I got to know Barbara during my involvement with the Carry On team in 1971,” she said. “I went to work in Jersey and Barbara came over for a period of time.
“I was working on the same bill as them, but she couldn’t sit in the audience when she wasn’t performing so we would often sit back-stage when we used to talk about girly things.”
Julie got the opportunity to perform in South Africa, Greece and Turkey, but it was a period at the Butlins camp, in Filey, which she looks back upon fondly.
She said: “I was there for around two years and did 16 Sunday concerts with Bob Monkhouse and Frankie Howerd.
“They were brilliant times, but to be honest they all were.”
Julie’s singing career unfortunately came to a rather abrupt end in 1983 due to a problem with her throat.
She needed surgery and she didn’t sing for around 12 years, during which time she took a change in career and secured a job at Smith and Graham Solicitors.
The company supported her through university where Julie became a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives and Commissioner for Oaths in 1992.
Shortly afterwards she set up her own estate agents, Richardson’s Real Estate, which is now based in Murray Street.
Julie is also a member of the Hartlepool branch of the Rotary Club and has helped to raise an impressive £12,000 over the last two years which was donated to Hearing Dogs for the Deaf.
The money was enough to buy one of the specialist dogs for a man who lives in Thornaby.To her delight, Julie is now able to sing again and goes along to the Harbour Refuge once-a-week for a sing-a-long.
It may not be alongside Freddie Starr, Barbara Windsor or the likes, but for Julie the enjoyment still very much remains.