On Tuesday, 20th November, there was a gathering at the Brook Street Community Centre, Tipton, to honour the memory of Black Country legend Harry Harrison.
Harry passed away in August 2007, aged 85, and he left behind a legacy of laughter and Black Country lore. He was a proud upholder of Black Country traditions and the region’s distinct dialect, not least in his regular “Off the Cuff Black Country Stuff” column in the Bugle, written in broad Black Country.
Harry appeared for many years with the Black Country Night Out show, as well as giving countless other performances and charity shows across the region.
He was born in Bloomfield Road, just a stone’s throw from the Brook Street Community Centre, so it is fitting that it should be the place for a commemorative blue plaque in his honour. It was unveiled by another comedy legend, Tommy Mundon, and Ray Hingley, who founded the Black Country Night Out in the 1970s. They were joined by Harry’s son Philip Harrison.
Afterwards there were speeches and shared memories, with Quarry Bank comedy queen Marlene reading one of Harry’s celebrated poems.
Harry grew up in Bloomfield Road, where his mother had a shop. He attended Dudley Grammar School in the 1930s, and later worked in a variety of jobs – a caster in a foundry, for the waterworks board as a labourer, for Preedy’s as a storeman and deliveryman; before his move into newspapers and onto the stage. Rarely seen without his trademark cloth cap, Harry was married to Floss, who, sadly, was unable to attend the unveiling due to poor health.
Tommy Mundon said, “This the perfect time of year to remember Harry, because his favourite song was Autumn Leaves. He’d sing it and scatter leaves from his pocket and when he couldn’t get any leaves he’d do it with raffle tickets instead!”
Philip Harrison said, “Harry would have been touched to see so many people here to honour him. You all knew him as Harry Harrison, but to me he was just my dad.”