Laurel and Hardy lookalikes from all over the world are set to descend on Cobh, Co Cork, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the visit to the town by the internationally famous comedy duo.
Nearly 120 delegates from as far away as New Zealand and America will come to the harbourside town next month, where they will attend the 14th European convention honouring the duo, which is being hosted this year by the Irish Laural & Hardy Society.
During a near-30-year partnership, the duo made the transition from silent movies to the ‘talkies’, and appeared in over 100 feature films together. Hardy’s catchphrase, “well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”, remains popular.
The Irish appreciation society, known as ‘The Jitter Bug Tent’ in honour of the title of a Masonic Lodge-type film the pair made,in 1933, has been planning the event for the last five years.
It will be staged from September 8 to 11 and will include the unveiling of a special commemorative plaque at Cobh (Queenstown) Heritage Centre.
Liam Muldowney, who is ‘grand sheik’ of the Irish society, said the comedy greats cried as they came off the ship into port in 1953 as the bells of St Colman’s Cathedral rang out their theme tune ‘The Cuckoo Song’.
“The bells were rung at the time by Staf Gebruers and his son, Aidan Gebruers, will do exactly the same thing on the Saturday at the exact time Stan and Ollie got off their ship and came into Cobh,” Mr Muldowney said.
“Aidan was a kid at the time and he met them.
“The delegates will enjoy three nights of entertainment and banquets at the Commodore Hotel and we have even organised ‘lookalikes’ who will travel from the UK and perform on the promenade bandstand on the Saturday afternoon.”
Delegates will also be coming from England, Scotland, Belgium, Holland, and Germany.
Mr Muldowney said in 1953 the duo’s international comedic career was on the wane.
However, they were offered somewhat lucrative stage-acting roles in Britain. Laurel, who was English did not have any issues going back to his homeland, but American-born Hardy had to wait for a visa approval, despite his status, and while this was being processed the duo toured Cobh and Ireland after getting off a liner.
“They were met there by the lord mayor [of Cork] and went onto Dublin for a few days where they did rehearsals for the [British] stage shows. The whole welcome they got in Cobh was overwhelming. They cried at the reception [they got from locals].
“The following year they appeared on the American version ofhosted by Ralph Edwards and both of them said that their visit to Cobh was one of the best moments of their lives,” Mr Muldowney said.