Wickle’s Comedy Straight Man Museum will present a new exhibition this Friday featuring the life and career of Oldham comic, Tommy Cannon. It will be the first time the doors have opened to the public since the £12 million 4th floor renovation took place.
Senior curator Matt Sharp oversaw the exhibition’s installation. The centrepiece is a tuxedo originally worn by the comedian on the Cannon and Ball Show’s debut 1979 series: ‘It’s hard to overstate the importance of a piece like this. I’ve been working on the display for weeks now and I still get goose-bumps just being in the same room,’ he explained.
The museum itself was the brainchild of Ralph D’ Dur, grandson of the 19th Century philanthropist, and Cayenne Pepper and slavery heir, Sir Charles D’ Dur.
In 1951, apparently wracked with guilt over his family’s part in introducing such a pungent spice to Britain, Ralph D’ Dur set about pouring his inheritance into a gigantic indoor shrine to comic actor Bud Abbott on the grounds of his Faldy estate.
The project was finally completed in 1957 at the cost of £6 million and the already increasingly reclusive former playboy fell from public view altogether. In the years that followed, rumours became rife of secret gatherings and candle-light rituals taking place inside the imposing gothic-style edifice.
Upon Ralph’s death in 1969, however, came the surprising announcement that the building was to be donated to the people of Wickle, with instructions to use what remained of the D’ Dur fortune to create a museum dedicated to ‘The great comedy straight men of film and TV.’ It was to become the family’s greatest legacy.
As the years passed the museum grew and grew. Exhibitions featuring classic straight men such as Dick Smothers, Ernie Wise and Dean Martin expanded the attraction’s repertoire. But it was in 1987, with the opening of the now world famous ‘Syd Little Wing,’ that the tourist began flood in.
Back in the present day, as the last of the early evening sun catches the buttons on the Tommy Cannon Tuxedo, curator Matt Sharp gives the gleaming display case a final polish: ‘It’s been a long slog, but the look on their faces will make it all worthwhile’
Doors will open at 8am Friday morning. Museum management have stated that queuing before 5am is strictly prohibited.