The ‘Original’ Beau Chumps Tent

The original Beau Chumps tent of Sunderland was foundered in 1984 with Steven Gibson as Grand Sheik and Ian Self as Vice Sheik. Robert Greenwood was in charge of films etc and the late, inimitable and much missed Robbie Crawford had a hand in er, entertainment!

Several of the Chumps in Bishop Auckland in 1986. (L-R) Mike Jones, Nick Jones, Steven Gibson, Darren White, Ian Self, unknown, Robbie Crawford, can’t remember and not sure. Embarrassing that…
Some of us at the Blackpool Convention in 1986 (L-R) Cecil Strain, Ian Self, Mike Jones, Nick Jones, Paul Strain, Peter Johnson, Robbie Crawford, Robert Greenwood.

We used to meet monthly in the Royalty Pub (Now the Stumble Inn) on Chester Road in the town and regularly had 40+ attendees. The tent was well represented at the international convention in Ulverston that year, and sent about 15 to both Blackpool in 1986 and to Glasgow in 1987 for the UK conventions.

Ian moved out of the area around this time, and I found myself stepping up from the ranks of the great unwashed to the lofty heights of Vice Sheik. Darren White held the position of Grand Vizier at that time, and was responsible for loads of memorabilia which took great ingenuity in devising and sourcing. He also designed all of the logos etc used by the tent, and printed everything for our convention. 

Robbie Crawford in full flow at the Seaburn Hotel, Saturday 30th April 1988

The Beau Chumps hosted the 1988 convention at the Seaburn Hotel (more recently the Marriott) which was a great success and was attended by well over 100 Sons who enjoyed a visit to the Empire Theatre where Stan and Ollie played full weeks in March 1952 and February 1954. A a parade through Bishop Auckland was held where Stan lived and was schooled for a time.

Preparing for the Way Out West Parade in Bishop Auckland 30th April 1988

This Way Out West themed parade included Ronnie Dunn as Stan, the late Peter Woods as Ollie, local girl Heather Smith as Rosina Lawrence and Sidney the mule who stood in for Dinah. Many shops etc were decorated for the occasion (even M&S and Boots!) with Laurel and Hardy themed windows and had Stan and Ollie memorabilia for sale.

Local historian John Land was instrumental in organising, making the Bishop Auckland event both run seamlessly and be highly enjoyable. Attendees at the Convention included representatives from fourteen UK Tents plus three from overseas: George Cook, from California, Leo Brooks of Pennsylvania and Wolfgang Guenther from Germany) as well as Stan’s Cousin Nancy Wardell, Bill Cubin and a special letter from Exhausted Ruler, John McCabe. Please see the separate article elsewhere on the website for fuller details of the 1988 Sunderland convention.

About eight of us went to Manchester for the 1989 convention but then work and family commitments began to press and the Chumps folded in 1991, but not before we were heavily involved in getting the statue of Stan erected in Dockwray square, North Shields. This was the site of the Jefferson residence from 1897 to 1901/2 – depending on your source..

Laurel Park, Dockwray Square, North Shields NE30 1JZ

In 1989 we were involved with Bill Cubin, Robbie Crawford and several others in the siting of the statue right in the middle of the square which is now a public park – Laurel Park. A plaque was also unveiled on the property (6-7 Dockwray Square) which now stands on the site of Stan’s former home. This was at the same ceremony, but is credited as being on 1 January 1990. The steps down to the fish quay that are rumoured to have given Stan the idea for Hats Off and of course the Oscar winning Music Box are just across the road.

It has long been my intention to re-establish the Chumps, and as I am now essentially retired, I am able to put my shoulder to the wheel, take the bull by the horns and get the tent into the digital age with DVDs, websites, emails and other tools of convenience. No humping a projector and screen around these days, he says…


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