Northern Ireland news

Lost episodes of Morecambe and Wise found in Sierra Leone believed to feature jokes about Irish people

It emerged yesterday that the recordings of the two comedy feature material poking fun at the Irish

TWO lost episodes of The Morecambe and Wise Show found in a derelict cinema in west Africa after more than 50 years are believed to feature Irish stereotyping and even IRA jokes.

The original tapes, from Morecambe and Wise’s 1968 series, were discovered in Sierra Leone earlier this year and have been restored after being feared lost.

However, it emerged yesterday that the recordings of the two comedy duo, Eric and Ernie, feature material poking fun at Irish people.

The BBC yesterday said it had been given a preview of the two lost episodes and reported that the footage includes around 12 minutes of sterotyping Irish people, with the two comedians appeared to be dressed as leprechauns.

It also said IRA jokes are featured in the newly-found programmes, which are due to be shown at a special event at the British Film Institute in London today.

The episodes were thought to have been lost forever after being wiped in a BBC cost-saving plan as executives recycled the tape reels for new recordings.

But archive preservation expert Philip Morris recently discovered the tapes gathering dust in the wrecked building in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown.

The tapes had been sent to Sierra Leone in the hope the country's broadcasters would buy the full series.

Mr Morris had already scoured archives in Sierra Leone, but found the national TV station had been destroyed during the country’s civil war between 1991 and 2002.

However, following a tip-off that a stash of old TV programmes had been unearthed in the abandoned cinema, he returned to Freetown and found the classic TV episodes.

He told The Times: "Inside this building there were old steel benches with stacks and stacks of films. Most were in a bad condition, but among these were two of the missing Morecambe and Wise episodes."

The 30-minute shows feature sketches called Hollywood Musical, Sailing Around The World and Eric And The Pools and due to be shown by the British Film Institute event today.

Dick Fiddy, TV consultant with the British Film Institute, said the discovery of the Morecambe and Wise episodes said it is a "very significant find".

"Any find is important, but this is particularly important because it features two of the most beloved entertainers that we have ever saw on British television," he told the BBC.

However, he agreed that some of the material may shock modern audiences, including the stereo-typing of Irish people.

"As we know the past in a foreign country and they do things differently now," he said.

"If you look at this now through the eyes of modern sensibility, then you can be shocked at the material.

"But as Radio Four Extra say when they sometimes do play dubious material, listeners are reminded that this programme is made in less enlightened times, I think that does cover a lot of the bases when you say that."

The shows are also due to be broadcast in a colourised version on BBC Two on St Stephen's Day.

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