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Jitterbugs 20th Birthday Meeting
- by Stephen O'Crowley

Jitterbugs Tent is twenty years old? You don't believe me!
Foundered back in the last millennium our tent has reached this great milestone and what better way to celebrate than to have a party. After months of planning out every detail what could go wrong ‐ well, one or two things as it turned out!!
It all started when a couple of days before the meeting Liam asked Sean (who looks after our venue reservations) to re‐confirm our booking. Sean got back to Liam with the news that the Inn had no record of our reservation. Panic attacks ensued. Next day, after a sleepless night for our Grand Sheik, Sean got back in touch ‐ all was well ... he had rung the wrong venue the day before! Saturday came along, and the committee arrived early to set up. Liam unpacked his impressive life‐sized display of Stan and Ollie... only to see Charlie Chaplin stare back at him. He bought two of these displays for Slapstick.ie ‐ Laurel & Hardy and Chaplin ‐ and both are identical when packed up and he had grabbed the wrong one... what are the odds of that happening (..tell me that again?). So, Charlie joined us for the day and we went to test the projector. All was working fine, until we got the blue screen of death on the laptop. Not to worry, we had brought a second one and after a few frantic minutes we were back on track. Tent members began to arrive and before long the room filled up. All enjoyed the photo slide show that was shown on our big screen, with pictures showcasing twenty years of Jitterbugs (and we haven't changed a bit!). We were honoured to have some very special overseas guests who came to join in the fun. John Ullah and Mandy Finney, from Laughing Gravy Tent in Birmingham, are long time friends of our tent. We were thrilled that they made the trip over to Dublin and meeting up with them again made our birthday celebrations all the more special. And then came quizgate.. but more of that later! See More...

Our second guest of honour was Gene Sorkin, Grand Sheik of The Chimp Tent in Cincinnati. Gene is on an extended trip of Europe and we were delighted that he added Dublin to his itinerary in order to join in our celebrations. As an added bonus, he and Liam even managed to get in a quick visit of Hardy's bar in the Royal Marine Dun Laoghaire on Saturday morning! And last, but not least (although thanks to a bus misunderstanding a trifle late) was another Grand Sheik (bringing the total to four!) - Bob Hickson from Be Big Tent in Manchester, who is also a friend of the tent and ever present at conventions.
Our meeting began, and Liam welcomed all to the party and introduced our special guests. Our first film was 'Near Dublin' ‐ the Stan Laurel Roach short (featuring Fin and, as John informed us, Charlie Hall although we didn't spot him!). 'Near Dublin' is a special film for Jitterbugs tent ‐ we first showed it at our European Convention in 2007, and although it doesn't feature Ollie, it's always well received when we view it. It's also the name of Liam's book about Laurel and Hardy in Ireland, but he doesn't like to talk about that! So, the film started... and after four minutes stopped. As Vice Sheik and alleged I.T. guy I tried to fix the problem, but to no avail until it was pointed out that the laptop wasn't plugged in and the battery was dead ‐ D'ohhhhh. The problem was quickly remedied, and the film began (again) and this time thankfully finished successfully.
Liam then recounted a message he received back in March from tent member Tom Copperwaite. Tom loves the tent meetings and was excited about our 20th anniversary party and marked the 18th in his diary ‐ unfortunately the 18th of March not May and when he texted Liam he was sitting in an empty room wondering where everyone was. Liam asked Tom to come up accept an award ‐ a calendar so he will avoid such problems in the future!
We then showed our second film ‐ The Chimp.. in honour of Gene. We also told our younger members that afterwards, there would be an under‐thirteen's quiz, based on the film. The film concluded, and the quiz sheets were handed out to young and young of heart alike. At the end of the quiz the answers were checked and we had a four‐way tie, one of which was Mandy! We got all four finalists of the "under-thirteen's" quiz to come up (we wouldn't take no for an answer!) and had a winner takes all question, which was won by Tommy Muldowney. However, no child (or Mandy!) left empty handed as all were awarded big bags of jellies.
Liam then shared some of the great (and bizarre) memories that we have had over the last twenty years ‐ my personal favourite was when in a hotel, a German guest, wearing pyjamas, came into the meeting to ask us to keep it quiet as he was trying to sleep (for the record we didn't!). Liam thanked the committee members individually for their efforts over that last twenty years. I turned fifty recently and as a very special surprise I was presented with a framed Christopher Lee autograph ‐ a fantastic gift which now hangs proudly on my wall.
Liam then asked me up to make another presentation or two. I firstly acknowledged all of the hard work that Trudi has done for the tent ‐ too numerous to list here but suffice to say that without her help we wouldn't have reached our 1st anniversary let alone our 20th and I was very happy to present her with a bouquet of flowers.
Next I asked our honoured guests to come up and accept a small memento of the day ‐ Irish pins for their fezzes. And finally, I moved away from the preapproved script to talk about our Grand Sheik, who foundered the tent twenty years ago and has run it successfully ever since, and without whom there would be no Sons of the Desert presence in Ireland. I was delighted to present him with, on behalf of a grateful tent, a Pineapple drinking glass and to reflect his unconservative dress sense, the inaugural Oliver Hardy Fashion Award.
And then on with the show. For our final viewing we showed “Another Fine Mess”, again one of note for us as it was the first film that we showed at our very first meeting. As with “Near Dublin” and “The Chimp”, it was very well received and to hear a room full of people of all ages laughing at Stan and Ollie is a special thing. We then had our raffle and asked our special guests up to help us with the Loyal Toasts. In addition to the normal toasts, Liam added two extras ones ‐ to the committee members long suffering wives (God Bless Them!) and to our past members who are sadly no longer with us. A rousing edition of "We are the Sons of the Desert" was sung and all were invited to stay for some tasty treats ‐ a really fabulous "Fez" shaped birthday cake that Trudi made and some yummy rocky road , buns and brownies made by Linda (Mrs Vice Sheik!) ‐ Our thanks to you both and can this be a regular feature at all of our meetings from now on please???
Alas all things must end but after we cleaned up our room there still was time to park the camels and have one for the desert with John and Mandy in the main bar. And as we enjoyed our last drink before heading home we noticed that on a high shelf right above us there was a bust of our good friends Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy ‐ thankfully, T'will ever be thus. See the incriminating images here

A meeting with a young fan in Cork, April 2018
- by Liam Muldowney

I've said many times over the years that the simple comedy of Laurel and Hardy should be shared with as many new generations as possible. The fun we have in the Sons of the Desert and the work we do to try and ensure that this is the case is very important to us. Back in January I was emailed by the mother of a 12 year old boy from Cork. He was doing his end of year school project and had chosen Laurel and Hardy as his subject even though most of his classmates had never heard of them. Nevertheless, Tom was determined to change that. She wanted to know if I had any old flyers or printed matter that I could share with him. I explained that myself as Grand Sheik and Stephen as Vice-Sheik of the Jitterbugs Tent were travelling to Cobh in February to kick start a convention and that her timing was excellent as we could arrange a meeting if she wished. We met Tom and his mum and had a great 90 mins with them and presented Tom with some Tent goodies and we brought some rare items and autographs to show him. I received a copy of the finished project, dedicated to myself and Stephen and what a work of brilliance it is. Stan and Ollie will never be forgotten with the likes of Tom and the new generations of Sons of the Desert in Ireland and all over the world.
The final lines in a letter from Tom's Mum, really capture it. Tom received a 98% grade... his highest ever... See a taste of Tom's project here

2016 International Sons of the Desert Convention Cumbria
- by Liam Muldowney

The 2016 International Sons of the Desert Convention was upon us and 2 excited Jitterbugs found themselves on the way to Dublin airport, ready to board the plane for the serious business of attending the said event. The journey itself wasn't eventful and once parked up and boarded, the excitement began to fester. For one, it would mean a renewing of old friendships and a mix of laughter and jollity but for the other, a virgin conventioneer, it would mean something along the lines of, "What the hell have I got myself into?" Such is the nature of the Sons of the Desert.
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Hire car collected, journey driven, parked at hotel and check in time... We were there...
The immediate sense of belonging and relaxation was apparent as we settled in. Cries of "hey, how are you" and "good to see you", were the order of the day as we decided, quite sensibly, to go to the bar and find our bearings from there...
We found ourselves in the company of 2 wayward lasses, one from Liverpool and the other a Brummie. Sam and Jackie would prove to be our convention companions for the entire weekend and they made for a mental journey of laughs and madness as we became the 4some of fun...
First night was a huge collection of handshakes and beers and as I took the mike quite proudly to offer the loyal toast, I looked at my fellow toasters and wondered at just how international a convention it was... England, American, Italian, Irish and Dutch. Food eaten and beers taken, those tired few retired to bed whilst the idiots like the Irish, decided it would be a good idea to stay drinking until the next day and think it was fun!
Day 2 brought a rail trip to Lake Windermere, where we boarded a boat across the lake. A day spent wandering around the village chuckling at the other tourists and residents who stared at the fez wearing , Stan and Ollie shirt wearing people who had invaded their town. Lovely food and a trip back into the world of Beatrix Potter were on the cards. I won't say who, but someone thought it was a good idea to mimic Mr. Jeremy Fisher... Back at the hotel, we settled down to enjoy an evening of fabulous Sons entertainment in which our own Sean Dowling performed admirably. He even managed to get the crowd singing along. Our Italian delegates finished the show with what can only be described as a magic act through broken Italian which made the show even funnier.
The next day was a full day spent at the hotel. The convention games began and the delegates performed the silly games to the best of their ability, some even trying to win! Sean's attempts to pin the tail on the donkey are worthy of a mention as is his golf skill whereby he proceeded to use the club as a snooker cue, giving better results. Mention must be made of someone playing with the disability lift and thinking it was great fun. No names will be brought forward but it was Sean Dowling. The Jitterbugs Tent performed brilliantly in the Quiz narrowly missing out in both the regular and the audio quiz... Liam's recitation of the bedroom scene from Sons of the Desert gathered great admiration and applause and was possibly the highlight of the entire convention for most. Mind you, the fact that Liam is writing this piece should be taken into account!
Our final day was spent in Ulverston, birthplace of Stan Laurel himself. A wander around the town and a visit to the Ulverston Brewery were on the cards.. Samples of the Ulverston brew were taken and afterwards we were taken on a guided tour of the town by our two hosts, dressed in period costume. Poor Isaac, one of our hosts, was repeatedly bombarded with insults and put downs by the other host and it made for some very funny moments as the Sons interjected and gave their views...
Lunch at the museum and a prime showing of a tribute film on Bill Cubin, master of the Sons in Ulverston and the original curator of the museum. Gary Winstanley had made an affectionate film and it was given the rapturous applause it deserved... Wandering around the town afterwards, Liam and Sean found themselves at the birth home of Stan Laurel. Taking pictures outside, the door opened and we were invited in by the current owner. What a thrill to stand in the hallway of the house where our hero was born.
That evening we gathered in the town hall for dinner and a twinning ceremony with Harlem, Georgia, where Oliver Hardy was born.. Hats off to the organisers for the live video link between the two towns where each mayor received the charter of twinning... The night ended with a performance of "This is my Friend Mr. Laurel" by Jeffery Holland and what a fabulous play it was.. Back to the hotel where some of us stupidly stayed up to have a night cap or two.
Next day we attended the Grand Council meeting and are assured that the Sons is in a healthy state. Next convention is in Massachusetts in 2018 and we wish them well... We are the Sons of the Desert, having the time of our lives...

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (Charlie Chaplin Comedy Festival Kerry)
- by Liam Muldowney

The car was packed and full to the brim... Roof box barely closed and petrol tank full... The Charlie Chaplin Film Festival in the far reaches of Waterville, Co. Kerry beckoned... The result of 2 years correspondence with the committee who were keen to get us involved and showcase the work of Laurel and Hardy.
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Anyone who knows me knows I like to have things done a certain way...Kerry the right way. Many phone calls and emails had been made and sent and I was really looking forward to going down with the motley crew of four Jitterbug minions and one Sap minion in Roger Robinson, who had expressed a keen interest in joining us.
The day dawned bright and off we set. A pick up along the way with Sean, Tom and Stephen, then a stop for coffee and we were off... Sat-Nav, due South West...
Then we hit Co. Kerry... Now I know Sat Navs have a tendency to take you the shortest route, but my Google map version had joined the Sons of the Desert or something and decided to have a bit of fun.. We encountered roads that hardly held the width of the car. Roads that sloped quite steeply upwards and downwards. Roads that contained dips and mounds that have ensured I will be making a trip to the local Quick‐Fit Exhaust shop this week!. We rounded one corner and I just as I was beginning to comment on the amazing scenery, I was quickly silenced by Sean with a cry explaining that keeping my eyes on the road was probably a better thing to do... I looked anyway, but don't tell him!
More winding tracks with roads that had near lawns down the centre, followed by clifftop metres that meant another 2 feet to the left and we were over! I could smell the whiff of clean underwear from the guys as we passed the sign for Waterville and entered the village that was our home for the next three days...
We met up with Colin and Roger who had taken the more sensible route of "the main road", and we checked into the Butler Arms Hotel. A special treat for us as this was the establishment that Chaplin himself had stayed in on his many trips to the village over a 10 year period. He had been keen to instil a sense of Ireland into his children and the family had returned time after time and made many friends there. The hotel made much of the connection by hanging lots of photographs of the Chaplins on the walls.Kerry
Having found the festival office and made our presence known, we were shown to our venue, the Tech Amergin. A local arts centre in which we had two rooms to showcase our craft... The large number of us ensured that the set up was swift and we settled down to watch a L&H short in order to relax and followed this with some pre dinner drinks in O'Dwers pub.
Kerry We strolled along the sea front, marvelling at the breath taking Kerry shoreline and had our obligatory photo taken at the statue of Charlie that proudly stood in the centre of the main street. The young photographer was quite insistent on getting the shot just right for us and then she suggested a local eatery which we gladly took and settled down for dinner.
I always marvel at The Sons of the Desert and our talent at quite simply settling into each other's company and feeling completely relaxed and at ease. This was the case and the laughter and giggles as we swapped stories and information on topics from the movies to brown bread had the other diners in awe.
We found ourselves back at the hotel bar for the night and an interval programme of Chaplin movies, which took place in a local church that dated from the mid-1800's. The setting was both eerie and interesting and added to a nice viewing experience that helped round off a tiring and exciting day.
Friday beckoned with a slight headache and a coffee, followed by a breakfast served up by the nice ladies who had also been our dinner hosts the night before.
We made our way to our venue and readied ourselves for the day ahead. Excitement was abound as we knew the arrival of Jeremy Irons was taking place. We showed a movie, made much of the coffee machine and suddenly saw Mr. Irons passing by the window. He completed his duties in the main auditorium and then came into our memorabilia room where he spent some time looking at our displays, asking questions and being generally pleased with the work we do as Sons of the Desert. He creates a presence does Mr. Irons and we were delighted that he spent some time with us and posed for photographs..Kerry Colin took the sandwich run and we sat down to enjoy the very best that Kerry convienience shops had to offer, talking rubbish and swapping silly stories as only we can. In the early afternoon, a small group of us made our way to the Big Top to see Diego Spano, a South American street performer, ply his trade as a Chaplin imitator. The hour long show was full of Chaplin style and gags and was one of the best I've ever seen.
We showed a few films during the afternoon and had excited children wanting more and more of Stan and Ollie's antics. As we closed up for the day and made our way back to the hotel for some good old fashioned rest, someone suggested a quick beer to aid the relaxation process and this was taken up with eager enthusiasm and we finally retired around 1.30am..
During that time however, some of us attended the 'Apres Match' show in the Big Top. The tent was packed and the boys did their thing to much applause and cheer. I myself found it quite entertaining having not been a huge fan beforehand. Afterwards, as we sat drinking beers in the hotel, the Apres lads came in for similar refreshment and were happy to pose for photos with us and hear who we were. They counted down to a rendition of “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine”, much to the amusement of the rest of the bar clientele.
Kerry Saturday dawned and a head clearing walk along the beach was once more in order before we waited patiently for our breakfast hosts to open shop. We then spent another day together showing the sparse crowds around our displays and explaining who we were. Towards the end of the day we were almost packing up when a family arrived with two children in tow, wanting to see some Laurel and Hardy fun on the screen. Then another family came in so we were glad to oblige. Two films later and we knew that those kids and their parents watching the films were laughing and smiling at the work of our heroes and we had done our job.
We dined at The Lobster that night and then some of us went to see “The Great Dictator” which was showing on the big screen in St. Michael's Church. The main awards were also taking place in the Big Top and a few of us attended those. Tom managed to steal a quick pick with Daithi O'Se as he passed by on his way to present the awards. A photo that I'm now sure is hung up pride of place in his bathroom!
We retired once more to the hotel bar and as we sat, Boyzone man himself, Keith Duffy came in. Tom had to be almost man handled to stop him from accosting Mr. Duffy for a photo but as the night wore on, Tom and Keith ended up being cigarette friends and we all had obligatory photos taken with Tom's new buddy...
As Sunday arrived, we had the cars packed and set off early, leaving behind our first Chaplin festival and the beautiful Kerry coastline. I for one enjoyed every minute of it all, the Chaplin fun, the Laurel and Hardy fun and of course, the boozy fun...
Memorable moments...
The sat'nav confusion and the 'Snake's Pass' drive.
Tom and his desire to be Lord Litchfield.
Roger and his complete support and positive influence.
Colin and forgetfulness when it came to paying for dinner!
Sean and his infectious smile and amazing life stories.
Stephen and his sense of humour as we took the mick out of people.
And finally, the resolve of the Sons of the Desert who continue to be nothing but one hell of a group of guys...

On Hallowed Ground
- by Colin Howe

A good few years back, my wife and I were fortunate enough to travel around California U.S.A and our first stop was in Silver Lake in Los Angeles. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Silver Lake, this is where Laurel & Hardy shot quite a few of their short movies, the most famous being “The Music Box” which won the 1932 academy award for 'Short Subject Comedy'. See More...

The house we stayed in was just off Sunset Boulevard and as you stood at the gate you could see the famous Hollywood sign on Hollywood hills.Culver City Just down the hill you could see the bottom of the Music Box steps so I was in my element. At the bottom of the steps there is a sign saying “Music Box Steps” and a plaque in the lower step. They were placed there by the Way Out West tent of Los Angeles in order that people could identify the correct set of steps, as there are many similar sets of steps all over the Silver Lake area.
The steps can be found on Vendome Street, Silver Lake. In the movie you can see grass on the left side of the steps with a couple of houses on the right and a couple of houses half way up on the left. Now there are houses on both sides all the way up. The street the postman used in the film, and where the boys eventually took the piano around to the top, still looks the same to this day, however, the house isn't at the top, as this part was filmed on a movie set. The steps are very long and steep and I was shattered by the time I got to the top so I don't know how Ollie managed it in that heat with his size, when you see them puffing I think that was for real. These same steps were also used in the 1927 film 'Hats Off'.
Next stop was Culver City, home of the Hal Roach Studios lot Culver City and another area of filming locations such as 'Angora Love' 'Leave Em Laughing' and 'Liberty'. As you enter Culver you pass the Culver Hotel seen in the 1927 film 'Putting Pants on Philip' and the 1928 film 'Leave Em Laughing'. Further on you will find the original site of Hal Roach studios 'The laughter factory' situated at 8822 Washington Boulevard. Unfortunately the studios were knocked down in 1963. In its place stands a Nissan garage, which ironically some people may still call the laughter factory, (sorry Nissan drivers). Again the Way Out West tent placed a plaque at the site. Culver City Culver City Hall is situated further on up Main Street, which was used for the scenes in the 1932 film 'County Hospital' and the 1934 film 'Going Bye Bye'. The original City Hall was pulled down sometime after 1994 and a new one built further back. They have erected a replica front on the original site, which is seen above.
Finally I found the house used for the 1929 film 'Perfect Day'. We had trouble finding this house as the address given on the Internet says Culver City, but if you ask anyone they won't know the place. I asked in a Police Station who thought I was nuts but were very helpful anyway and gave me directions. The correct address is 3120 Vera Avenue Los Angeles. The house hasn't changed one bit.
Culver City My big disappointment was not seeing Stan and Ollie's graves. On the day we passed Forest Lawn Cemetery where Stan is buried, I didn't have my piece of paper with the plot number on and the information desk wouldn't give information on celebrity graves. Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills is as big as Dublin so I didn't fancy my chances finding the plot. Pierce Bros, Valhalla Memorial Park is where Ollie is buried, and is a bit further away in North Hollywood and we were out of time as we were due to move on.
You can find the plot numbers and grid references along with pictures at the web site findagrave.com Stans resting place is at Forest Lawn Cemetery in the George Washington section second terrace 910.
Ollie's resting place is at the Pierce Bros, Valhalla Memorial Park in the Garden of Hope, lot 48.
We left for Las Vegas and from there we went to San Francisco before returning to Los Angeles. Whilst there we went down to the Hollywood walks of fame to find Stan and Ollie's stars. Stan's is at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard with Mae Busch's next to it. Ollie's is at 1500 Vine Street. These are a good bit apart as the walks of fame isn't on one street as you imagine, it covers a lot of blocks.
On the return journey to the airport we passed the 'Music Box Steps' one last time to wave goodbye with a tear in my eye. You know “It's a long distance from Ireland” - “It sure is”, but well worth the visit.

Southend-on-Sea 2013 UK Convention
- by Liam Muldowney

“Do we check in online or wait till we get to the airport?”
Such was the dilemma facing the 4 members of the Jitterbugs Tent Ireland in the run up to our trip to Southend-on-Sea and our attendance at the UK Convention. See More...

Having toyed with the question for a few days, we decided at the last minute (after some head scratching from Liam, Stephen and Colin and a few expletives from Tom) to wait till we got to the airport.
And so it was, that on the morning of May 3rd, we found ourselves having coffee and a fry-up in the departures area of Dublin airport. Fez's carefully packed and the Tent banner folded and stored, ready for hanging on the wall of the dining room as per tradition. As we sat and drank our coffee and moaned about the price of the sausages, a theme began to emerge.. laughter! We had begun to laugh and it wasn't going to stop until Monday afternoon when we were to finally separate after spending the entire weekend in each other's pockets.
Southend We chuckled on the tiny Aer Arann propeller plane as she bobbed about in the air and if anyone suffered from a fear of flying it sure didn't show. Arriving in Southend airport, we quickly exited and took the 5-minute taxi ride to the hotel, eager to be settled and see who was about. Sons of the Desert were casually wandering about enjoying the vintage car and motorbike display that had been laid on for us. As we took in the sights of these marvellous vehicles, we spotted Jeffery Holland (Spike from Hi de Hi), walking about with his lovely wife, actress Judy Buxton. Special guests for the weekend and at the mercy of the Sons, we had a chat and a photo and they were thrilled to meet the boys from Ireland. Familiar faces arrived and we renewed our acquaintance with Sons from Holland, Britain, Belgium and the USA. Beers at the bar and we took up residence at the back of the dining room. Stephen had negotiated a ladder from a member of the hotel staff and our banner took over the back wall.Southend Our old friend Voodoo from New Jersey and the boys from Bradford joined us. Gary Winstanley and Tony Traynor made up the rest of the table and we were off. Our hosts, the Saps at Sea Tent introduced Jeffery and Judy and also descendants of Fred Karno and The Lonsdale sisters, who had played on the bill in Southend with L&H. We enjoyed our meal and an odd beer ( ! ) and were entertained by L&H lookalikes and a revue show that ended with a fabulous ventriloquist that we unfortunately missed deciding to move out to the bar area! Our first mistake! We sat at our table in the foyer and Sons passed and stopped for a chat, the most memorable being Phil Rushton who entertained us with his jokes that usually resulted in groans rather than laughter. More beers and fun and laughter and we eventually retired to our four man room in the small hours. What followed when we got there was nothing short of the best laughter I have ever enjoyed! I knew we all got on really well but the hour before bed as we drank coffee and tea and talked and joked was amazing. Chuckles, guffaws, and a night I will never forget.
We woke early on Saturday morning. I say we as in Colin, Stephen and myself. Tom already had a day's work done by the time we awoke, early riser that he is. Breakfast was enjoyed in its artery clogging entirety with a small scare the night before when Roger Robinson told us that two days previous to us arriving, the hotel were only offering a continental style breakfast! I could not imagine the faces of the Sons as they arrived to breakfast and the only thing on offer was healthy fruit and breads!Southend Boarding the buses for Kent and the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch railway, we were warned by our (Un)Officials to make sure we came back on the same bus.. colour coded of course. We were on the yellow bus but the question was still asked (Sons style), many times.. “what colour is the bus”. The railway is a miniature steam locomotive that takes its passengers on a trip around the Kent countryside and coast and was famously opened by Stan and Ollie in 1947. After a squashed carriage ride in the company of Voodoo, we arrived at Romney in a frozen state, due to the fact that the idea we had of taking an open carriage seemed like a good idea at the time. Until we departed the station that is, because that's when the weather suddenly turned cold and wet! However, we made it and the town of New Romney had turned out to greet us, including the mayor himself. A small parade of Tents, with banners aloft meant the local papers got their photos and everyone was happy.
Just time for a re-enactment of the opening of the railway with the Laurel and Hardy lookalikes and we boarded the train again for the last bit of the journey to Dungeness. We wisely took a closed carriage this time but ended up leaving the door open for the journey, due to the claustrophobia that an entire closure brought about!
We were entertained that night by a great sketch entitled "The Nine Wives of Laurel and Hardy". This was superbly acted and sung and we all agreed it was a great opener for the night. It was followed by the music of The Zoltans and the Fancy dress. No Jitterbugs entrants but the deserved winners were the boys from the Dirty Work Tent, who naturally played the chimney sweeps..
Southend We retired once more to our spot in the hotel foyer and had one more for the desert! Ok maybe two!! Laughter and guffaws a plenty, we were told at one point by some of our Dutch friends that we were too loud! Kettle, pot and black come to mind!
It's funny what a little laughter and booze will do to a Son of the Desert. We were sitting beside the automatic doors of the hotel and every time someone entered or left, the doors would of course automatically open.. We thought it was absolutely hilarious when this happened and we waved our hands at the same time pretending we were Jedi Knights using The Force to open the door.. Yeah, I know!
Another laugh filled hour before bed as we sat once more in our room and chuckled and then chuckled some more.
Sunday morning came round quickly and Tom was AWOL at 7am. The rest of us dressed and readied for breakfast when Tom showed up, mission accomplished! You see Stephen happened to have his birthday that particular day and a text from Mrs. O'C the day before ensured that we were prepared to make the best of it. Tom had purchased the cake as part of his early morning manouveres and our plan was coming along nicely.
Breakfast enjoyed and we took part in the games, Tom did dismally at the golf and Liam did equally dismally at the paper plane throw.. The hotel foyer was besieged by the Sons as Louise Murchison had set up a great display of Fred Karno memorabilia. Liam, being a bit of a Fred fan was delighted to see original documents relating to the great man and having a photo with Louise was a highlight.
Southend We boarded the coaches for Southend and took the short trip to see the Palace Inn Hotel where the Boys famously stood on the balcony. Photos taken, we decided not to stay for the film show but choosing instead to partake of the seafront fun park and the joy of the roller coaster. What a thrill it was. Wind in my hair, loop the loop and a great funfair feeling.. Ok, I lie.. Liam and Tom stayed on terra-firma and left Colin and Stephen to entertain the crowds with their screaming and shouting as loop the loop and freefall filled them up.
Now when in Southend on Sea, what could be better than some good old fish and chips on the seafront? What indeed.. how about some jolly fine weather? 24 degrees!!! WOW... We sat outside a fine establishment and treated the birthday boy to lunch, fish and chips x 4!
We joined the rest of the conventioneers at the Naval and Military Club, where the Saps at Sea hold their monthly meetings.Southend Some fine ales were taken and we sat in the sun and shade and enjoyed more laughing and a relaxing afternoon, before taking the coaches back to the hotel and taking part in the convention quiz.. Hmmm! We were doing quite well until we took the wrong turn at somewhere along the way?? Laughter ensued when scorekeeper Janice announced our score after round one, as the "JITTERBUGGERS", Janice now has sole copyright on the name and we are having our banner changed! ("We don't think"). More study for the Jitterbugs next year.
Pre-dinner beers and we sat down for the last time to enjoy a Sons feast and a spot of trouble for Stephen. Tom announced his birthday and Stephen was invited front and centre to be presented with his birthday cake and the wishes of 150 Sons of the Desert.. The look I received as he left the table is forever etched in my brain and his promise of a resignation still stands.. I think.. All taken in good fun.
A Q&A with Jeffrey Holland and Judy Buxton and Colin took the spotlight on behalf of the Jitterbugs and had his questions answered admirably. We then enjoyed some magic from our L&H lookalikes before the Sons entertain began with some fine acts providing an array of fun and laughter..
We adjourned once more to the foyer and played laughter and fun and Jedi door opening once more and found it as funny as ever. Voodoo, Nick, Dave, and many Sons were delighted to join us and we laughed into the small hours. Bedtime came and we were sad to go to sleep because we knew that the end was near.
Next morning, we woke, packed, and had breakfast. Being the only room in the hotel with a balcony provided us with a bird's eye view of Sons packing their cars and leaving the convention. All four of us stood, waved and shouted obscenities at those below, and enjoyed our last few hours amongst our fellow friends. All too soon, time passed and we hugged and shook hands with everyone we could before the taxi arrived and we said farewell to The Skylark Hotel. ("All Aboard the Skylark")
We checked in and proceeded to the gate and had a final coffee and then readied ourselves to board. From the corner of my eye, I saw Anton, Bram, and more of our Dutch friends, arriving for their flight. More handshakes and goodbyes and a farewell from Bram who shouted after us as we left the terminal building.. "We wanted to make sure you left!"
Dublin arrived and we bade farewell to each other. I don't know about the rest of the boys but I have been to a good few conventions and I can honestly say that Southend-on-Sea was the best.. Great fun, company and laughter. Here's to Manchester 2014..
Our thanks to all the Saps for a great weekend.. Brilliantly organised and run.. Paul, Roger, Dave, Ray, Rita, Paul, Janet, Melanie, Debbie, Jim and all our friends.

Laurel and Hardy in Dublin
- by Liam Muldowney

(Please see gallery page for wonderfull pictures of this trip.)

On Sunday 25th May 1952, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy took the overnight Ferry from Liverpool to Dublin. The next morning, a reporter from the Irish Daily Mail noted that they both had missed breakfast and didn't appear until noon. The venue was the Gresham Hotel, a large 5 star hotel on Europe's widest street, O'Connell St. See More...

This street had witnessed many events in Ireland's history, and now here was another, the first visit of Laurel & Hardy to Ireland.
The newspaper reported that:
Stan Laurel was first on the scene, looking every inch like that silly little man who was guaranteed to get his partner into every conceivable mess. Then came Oliver Hardy, looking even larger in life than he does on the screen, and still sporting his tiny moustache. The party was quite tired, as they were exactly halfway through an eight-month tour of Britain and Ireland. It therefore must have come as a blessing that the opening night's performance had to be cancelled. The reason was due to the fact that the scenery didn't make it over in time.
Opening night began on Tuesday 27th May and The Dublin Times reported:
What Laurel & Hardy have to say to each other doesn't matter. They merely have to appear on stage and the house rocks, shrieks and hoots with laughter. Much of the laughter came from children, but their parents were spellbound too.
The Irish Press of Wednesday May 28th noted:
...that Mr. O'Laurel and Mr. O'Hardy were the latest distinguished visitors to Dublin.
In private life they don't make you laugh ha-ha, but they do make you smile. "I have always believed" Oliver Hardy said to me yesterday, "I know more about pictures than Stan does, because I am bigger. If I listened to him I wouldn't fall over as many cliffs or things like that, but I'm sure I know more about pictures."
Reporter Mac Alla was in their hotel room when the phone rang... It was somebody saying that he had been told to contact Laurel & Hardy and he got onto Stan. The context wasn't clear, but they were to get in touch with somebody. The somebody couldn't get in touch with them, because the somebody hadn't turned up. Chaos all around. "You should have hung up before he did," said Oliver sitting majestically in his chair. "I didn't know he hung up," said Stan "I wasn't listening..."
Stan's hobby is deep-sea fishing and he boasted about the tuna he caught weighing 258 pounds, which he landed in 44 minutes. Oliver had won before the war 172 cups for golf. He played off a 7 handicap. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and John McCormack were among his frequent opponents. "I liked John best, he couldn't go too fast" said Oliver. "He played a nice slow game. So did I." Oliver has now taken up gardening, starting with a 3-acre garden.

Mac Alla then asked them if were going to meet anybody important while they were in Dublin. "Everybody is important to us" was the joint answer. Mrs. Hardy went on to describe her husband as a great handyman around the house, just give him a paintbrush and he is happy.
Also in the room was an Irish Independent reporter and he asked Ollie if Laurel & Hardy were to make any more pictures.
"Only if we can make them as we want them," was his reply. The reporter went on to tell Stan about the perch in Poulaphouca Lake in Co. Wicklow and apparently there was a twinkle in Mr. Laurel's eye. Stan and Ollie stayed 2 weeks in Dublin and worked very hard. They performed twice nightly, and matinees. An Evening Herald reporter noted:
Personally I found them much more entertaining in person than in celluloid. In two short scenes they managed to convey their genius for the trade that has kept them in the forefront for so long.
Their visit to Dublin also coincided with the British and Irish release of 'Atoll K' known as 'Robinsoncrusoeland'. This was playing nightly in cinemas. Dublin it seemed was not only the Irish capital but also the Laurel & Hardy capital for those two weeks.
Laurel & Hardy took the train to Belfast in time to open on June 9th. While in Belfast Stan was taken ill and was laid up for a couple of weeks in the Musgrave Clinic. Oliver and Lucille Hardy returned to Dublin for a short holiday while Stan recovered.
Whilst in Dublin, Ollie was thrilled to hear that his friend of many years G.H. Elliot, the great music hall star (known as the Chocolate Coloured Coon), was playing in the Olympia Theatre where the boys had just performed. Mr. Elliot was amazed and pleased to see Oliver and Lucille Hardy in the audience one night. After a relaxing holiday the Hardys returned to Belfast where Stan had recovered and they continued with the tour.
On the 9th of September 1953, Stan & Ollie arrived back on Irish soil. We all know of that most famous welcome that they received in Cobh, Co, Cork. The party took the train to Dublin and they disembarked at Amiens St station and then they continued on to Dun Laoghaire, where they were staying in the Royal Marine Hotel. This was an old hotel with amazing sea views. There have been one or two alterations but to this day it is still Dun Laoghaire's premier, and one of Dublin's top hotels. A young hotel porter Tony Drummond remembers the amazing sight of Laurel & Hardy walking through the foyer and "two gentlemen", is how he describes them. Tony is still working there (although nearing retirement) and is now the Head Hall Porter.
The Irish Times wrote on the 10th September:
"U.S. comedians will write show in Dublin"
The two comedians arrived in Dublin virtually unnoticed. Last night at the Royal Marine Hotel where they are staying, a reporter found Stan Laurel and his wife at dinner. "Ollie is resting, " said Stan, "We had a terrific heatwave in New York before we left and it was just too much for him." The reporter went on to say Stan and Oliver will rest until Monday morning, when they will be joined by a scriptwriter from London. For the following fortnight they will think up scripts for their show. "We are thinking of calling it 'Birds of a Feather' but we may change that title", said Stan. Their show will go on a 12-month tour of British theatres. "We will be appearing in Belfast but I do not know about Dublin yet" Stan added.
...The cast, which will take part in the show, will arrive in Dublin in a fortnight's time and will rehearse in the Olympia Theatre, where the two comedians appeared last year during their first visit to Ireland. The scenery for the show is being made in Belfast and will be brought to Dublin for the rehearsals. Laurel & Hardy would have rehearsed in England but for some labour restrictions, which prevent them from going there until October.
"From what I have seen of Dun Laoghaire," said Stan Laurel; "it seems to be a beautiful spot". The reporter noted that he had some trouble with the pronounciation. (The labour restrictions, which the reporter spoke of, were, the fact that Oliver Hardy could not get a working visa for the U.K. until October, Southern Ireland was alright though.)
Whilst staying in Dublin, Oliver Hardy took the opportunity of visiting one of Ireland's best tailors, Louis Copeland. He had a tweed suit made to his large specifications and whilst the fittings were taking place he and Stan were asked if their names could be used as part of an advertisement for the tailor. They agreed, but instead of taking a fee they agreed to a cheque being donated to a well-known Dublin charity. A couple of days later they presented the cheque, in person, to Little Willie of the Little Willie Polio Fund. Louis Copeland is still Dublin's most Master Tailors and his son now runs the business.
While all the rehearsals were taken place in the Olympia Theatre, a young barmaid who worked there, got to see a lot of Laurel & Hardy. She remembers a lot of acts and performers, but fondly reminisces about Stan & Ollie and just how much of an impression they made on her. Today if you go into Maureen's Bar in the Olympia Theatre you will still find her there and she is famous for being Dublin's longest serving barmaid. Ask her about Stan & Ollie - she loves to talk. Just before Laurel & Hardy sailed to England, they performed 'Birds of a Feather' for the first time in front of an audience. On Sunday, 11th October, the boys' generous nature saw them performing in a charity show in the same Olympia Theatre. The Evening Herald:
It [Birds of a Feather] provides straightforward knock-about fun and the two comedians worked with their usual earnestness and to the great delight of the audience.
Also part of the showcase were famous Irish acts Paddie Crosbie, Eugene Lambert, Freddie Doyle and the Capitol Theatre Dancers, amongst others. On Tuesday, 13th October, they sailed across the sea to England and away from Dublin for the last time.

Laughing Gravy Report
- by Liam Muldowney and Stephen O'Crowley

The Birmingham pairing of John O'Ullah and Mandy O'Finney had made many trips to the Emerald Isle to visit the Jitterbugs Tent of Dublin. Over the 10 years of the Jitterbugs Tent we had met and become good friends. Lots and lots of times there had been promises made to return the visit, but all had come to nothing and the patience of the Laughing O'Gravys was hitting breaking point See More...

At the Amsterdam Convention in July of this year, I was handed a newsletter of the Birmingham Tent and its front page told of an Irish Night..... "Laughing O'Gravy Goes Green"..
Meeting You see, its 55 years since Stan & Babe visited Ireland and made that famous trip to Cobh, County Cork. You know the one where the Carillon Bells of St. Colman's Cathedral played the Cuckoo Song and the children lined the docks and gave Laurel and Hardy a welcome to remember. Well it seemed that The Birmingham Tent wanted to celebrate this fact with a warts and all Irish celebration (any excuse!). They had well and truly thrown down the gauntlet!! Not to be one to shy away from a challenge, myself and Stephen O'Crowley (real O' this time), decided to take the bull by the horns, put our best foot forward and ...... GO! I dusted off the green suit and Stephen ironed his Leprechaun costume and we met in Dublin airport on the morning of the meeting.
Arriving in Brum, we followed John's excellent directions and arrived at our hotel, that happened to be right in the centre of Birmingham and very close to the Disney Store, which was quite a good thing really as Stephen had strict instructions to visit that particular establishment and bring 'stuff' home. Stephen, wanting to keep his marriage in the tip top condition that it's in, duly did just that. Having agreed to accompany him into the shop, I left him, still deciding what to purchase, after about 20 mins. When we finally caught up again, we were better off by two Disney Store bags!
We returned to the hotel to freshen up and set out for Erdington and to the Charlie Hall pub. We wisely also decided NOT to wear the said Green suit and Leprechaun costume as we had a ten minute train journey followed by a 15 minute walk to actually get to the location. We always thought of ourselves as good for a laugh, but we just didn't think that the larger Birmingham population were ready for such a sight so we brought them in undercover bags instead! Having gone to the left and then to the right and then to the right again, we asked a policewoman and she pointed us in the correct direction.
After some top grub at The Charlie Hall, we took the short walk to the Bromford Club and met our hosts. What a fabulous bunch of people they are. We were made feel so welcome and at ease that it was like we'd known this Tent for years. Be warned though. If you visit this Tent, we suggest that you arrive a little later than 7pm, as John put us to work and we had to help set up and carry and fetch etc. etc...
The Tent members at large began arriving and almost everyone was dressed in some sort of greenery, be it hats, shirts, scarves, trousers and even a football strip of the Rep. Ireland team. What a great effort from this enthusiastic Tent. We were introduced to so many people, that I lost count. Some had Irish connections and wanted to talk about the old homestead and some just wanted to recall trips made to Dublin and beyond. It was such a friendly and happy evening and we felt like celebrities as we received a huge round of applause just for being there. An honour as always to raise a toast and thankfully my Gaelic language skills returned from my schooldays.
Meeting The evening continued with some fabulous Irish dancing as the guest trio of girls performed jigs and reels for us. Hat's off to them all for staying up past their bedtimes. Following this, we were entertained with an Irish sing-song rendering of "Molly Malone" and "Danny Boy". An interval slice of Irish Barm Brack (Irish fruit cake), was served by Pat Finney and there was even some Kerrygold butter to spread on it. Before you could say Paddy Murphy, the food was gone and Pat busily opened another one and started slicing.
The raffle had some great prizes including Irish alcoholic beverages, Shirts, an authentic Irish tea towel (bought at the Liverpool Docks) and some home grown Irish potatoes (bought in Tesco in Erdington, but don't tell anyone).
We were thrilled to present our hosts with a certificate of thanks and a framed photograph of Stan and Ollie onstage at Dublin's Olympia theatre. Recently uncovered by one of our members, we are almost sure that it is the first photograph of the "Birds of a Feather" sketch. The meeting ended and we stayed behind for a late drink and some good conversation with some of the Tent's members. We were then driven back to our hotel by Mandy O'Finney Taxi Cabs and we said our goodbyes. What a great night we'd had and the company of good friends we had met was second to none. The Laughing O'Gravys sure know how to plan a meet..