Former Hartlepool theatre boss pays tribute to comic genius Sir Ken Dodd

The late Sir Ken Dodd.
The late Sir Ken Dodd.

A former Hartlepool theatre boss has paid tribute to legendary comedian Sir Ken Dodd after the funnyman’s death at the age of 90.

Ernie Merrilees was general manager of Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre when the veteran performer last played in town around 20 years ago.

Speaking after Sir Ken's death was confirmed on Monday, Mr Merrilees, now retired, recalled how “he was a gentleman and a pleasure to work with”.

Mr Merrilees, who retired as theatre manager in 2010, added: “As was the case where-ever he played, he stayed on so long that he was nearly the last person left in the theatre.

“People would be standing up to get the last bus and he would start talking to them as they were putting their coats on. It was great fun.”

The marathon shows meant overtime payments for staff.

But Mr Merrilees, 63, of Blackhall Rocks, added: “He was worth it. The place was packed and I wish we could have had him here every year.

"His popularity never really waned. If anything it got bigger again and it allowed him to play bigger venues than Hartlepool where we could only hold 400 people.

"The Borough Hall is bigger but it is not a typical music hall venue and that is what Ken Dodd wanted."