by Norman Warwick

Fans lined the street as comic legend Bobby Ball was laid to rest recently. The entertainer, from Oldham, passed away aged 76 at Blackpool Victoria Hospital after contracting coronavirus. The Cannon and Ball icon was cremated at Carleton Crematorium. Mourners gathered on the streets to pay their respects as part of a procession through Blackpool ahead of the funeral,

Bobby´s two partners in life, his wife Yvonne and comedy sidekick  Tommy Cannon looked visibly upset when walking into the funeral home.

Cannon & Ball

Despite the grief and sadness all the funeral attendees wore red braces to the memorial service, in a nod to the outfit Bobby wore on stage for so many years. They could be heard shouting his catch-phrase Rock on, Tommy as they waited for his coffin to arrive at the church. It was an appropriate way to celebrate his life and the joy he brought to people.

The funeral cortege started at East Beach at 1pm and continued along Central Beach with a brief pause at Lowther Gardens. It then went along West Beach and onto Clifton Drive and Inner Promenade before heading towards Blackpool Promenade. The procession then paused outside Blackpool Tower and the Comedy Carpet to allow fans in the town to pay their respects.

Bobby’s coffin was seen covered in bouquets of white roses as it was taken out of the hearse into Hope Church in Lytham St Annes. Several people signed a special condolences book that was laid out on a table outside the church.

Bobby Ball, whose real name was Robert Harper, died on October 28.

A statement from his management read: ´It is with great personal sadness that on behalf of Yvonne Ball, and the family, and Tommy Cannon, I announce that Bobby Ball passed away at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on the 28th October 2020 approximately 21:30.

Bobby had been taken to hospital for tests as he started with breathing problems. At first it was thought to be a chest infection but a test proved positive for Covid-19.

His wife Yvonne said the hospital and staff could not have been more wonderful, as they were outstanding in their care of duty and they did everything possible for him and she cannot praise them enough.

She said that the family and Tommy would like to express their sincere thanks to the many, many people who have been fans of Bobby and they know that they will all share in part the great loss and total sadness that Yvonne, the family and Tommy all feel.

Yvonne added that their need for privacy at this time has to be a priority. No further announcements or statements will be made.´

In a statement ahead of the funeral, his family said: ´The response to Bob’s funeral announcement has been overwhelming and the love and support from you all has been wonderful and a huge comfort. A heartfelt thank you from us all. As you can imagine the family are acutely aware of the devastating effects of Covid after losing Bob and are extremely concerned about your safety. “We would like to remind you about ‘staying safe’ and adhering to the current strict national lockdown regulations, should you be out and about as the funeral Cortege goes by. As you know, people can only leave their home for specified purposes, and ‘gatherings’ with more than one other person, are not currently permitted. Please remember this and keep safely within the current rules. Fylde & Blackpool Councils and the Police Authorities have been extremely supportive and we cannot thank them enough. Covid Wardens will be out on the day of Bob’s funeral to make sure people adhere to the rules and everyone is safe. Bob would want you to stay safe, stay well and look after your loved ones. Please, please adhere to Covid Regulations on his day. We have to look forward to brighter times, post lockdown, when those wanting to, can attend tribute events for Bob and his charities, where we can all honour and celebrate his life together.´

Tributes poured in for the star following news of his death

Former Coronation Street actress and former Loose Women panellist, Sherrie Hewson, a foil for several comedians during the seventies and eioghties, including Cannon & Ball, said she is ´Heartbroken that my gorgeous, funny, talented, generous friend Bobby Ball has gone. He made me laugh more than anyone I know . He will be so missed by millions. He will always be in our hearts . Love you Bobs xxxxxx.´

Oldham MP Jim McMahon tweeted: ´Very sorry to hear of the passing of Bobby Ball. Oldham born, he gave so much entertainment throughout his life. My thoughts are with his family and friends´.

Bobby is survived by two sons, Robert and Darren, with his first wife Joan Lynn, as well as his daughter Joanne with Yvonne Nugent.

Cannon and Ball were part of something of a golden age for comedy pairings, that had been led by Morecambe and Wise and had included Little And Large and Mike and Bernie Winters.

In his partnership with Tommy Cannon, Bobby Ball rarely served in the role of joke teller, and was rather more something of a character actor of a mischievous, slightly defensive and occasionally angry man spoiling for a fight. He delivered lines that soon after their first airing became catch phrases across the nation.

Bobby Ball (centre) on Not Going Out

There was something more though. he had expressive eyes that could seem shifty, observant, mischievous, guilty, angry and full of friendship and compassion and humour. Those eyes danced, often deliberately portraying to the audience (of Not Going Out, for instance, the sit-com in which he starred with Lee Mack) just what his character was thinking when he was being reprimanded and then sparkling gleefully, alerting us to the moment a plausible excuse for his actions had just entered his head.

Covid has taken him, though, and we have lost a good and charitable man, a funny guy and someone we all thought was probably an unstoppable example of perpetual (e) motion.

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