Friday, 23 April 2010

Dear old Dennis of Grunty Fen - I remember him well!

Sue and I took part of the morning off today and attended, at the invitation of our friend, Mr Mike Petty, another meeting of 'Fenland History On Friday' at the Ely Library. The meeting room was packed. The speaker was Mrs Liz Sayers, whose late husband, Pete, was an internationally known country singer who performed at 'The Grand Old Opry' at Nashville, Tennessee, and also all over the rest of the known world.

Pete Sayers was much admired and loved as a singer and performer but perhaps his best-known local role here in South East Cambridgeshire was as 'Dennis of Grunty Fen.' Liz gave us the low-down on how this act all started, back when they lived in Dullingham, and the talk was both hilariously entertaining and marvellously moving. Liz speaks warmly and very well. I was able to say a few public words of thanks to our lovely speaker and I mentioned specifically Pete's generosity in coming to Bottisham Village College to do a show to help us to raise money for the construction of the swimming pool at the college. The show featured both Pete Sayers himself as a singer and performer and as 'Dennis.' I recall the occasion well and I also recall that 'Dennis' had the large and appreciative audience in fits of laughter.

I also said that dear old Pete ('Dennis') may now no longer be with us but that his spirit lives on in South East Cambridgeshire. Indeed, during this campaign, I have come across several 'Dennis' look-alikes, though few with his inimitable shrewdness and wisdom, for our Pete (both as himself and as 'Dennis') was very shrewd and very wise.

Pete was not born in Cambridgeshire but he came to epitomise all that was best about 'old Cambridgeshire,' for he became at an early age 'one of us' and he seemed naturally to understand us. Sue and I are proud to have been his friends and we are equally proud of being Liz's friends.

Liz, a distinguished former editor of the Newmarket Journal, permitted herself to be photographed with me and here is the result. Mrs Sayers is the good-looking and young one on the right.

P.S. Liz mentioned in her talk the extraordinary Christmas cards that used to be sent out by her and Pete. They were usually from pen and ink drawings by John Holder. We kept them all and Sue has been delving in various places here at home and has found one of the last ones that we received.

The title of the drawing is, 'Picturesque Grunty Fen: No. 3.'

The caption accompanying it reads as follows:

'Erected in 1923 as a global stronghold for a new world religion which at one time claimed more than 17 members, The Grunty Fen Temple Bastion of Eternal Strength and Perpetual Impregnable Citadel of Everlasting Endurance fell down later the same year.'


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.