It was a privilege to welcome the Speirs family back to The Midland after many years. Mr Robert Speirs, now 91, was The Midland Manager through much of the 1960s.
The current Midland Manager, Mark Needham, was able to chat with Robert and his son, Stewart, and hear some of the stories of their time at The Midland.
Mark Needham chats with Robert Speirs in the foyer of The Midland
Stewart has fond and vivid memories of living in the hotel until he was nine years old, and he has kindly shared some of his stories and given us a peek in his father’s photograph album.
We had our own self-contained apartment on the hotel first floor of the hotel. I remember playing Thunderbirds with my big brother, Jonathan. When we received an ‘emergency distress call’ we would drop down through the laundry chute from the ground floor store to the basement laundry basket to pick up Thunderbird 1 and Thunderbird 2 (scooter and pedal car). Then we would take the lift to the ground floor, peddle out the service door and down the ramp to the car park to start our rescue mission. Obviously Health & Safety wasn’t quite so stringent in those days!
The foyer as it was in the 1960s
Mr and Mrs Speirs brought ballroom dancing competitions to the hotel which was very popular.
The sixties was the era of beauty pageants and none more popular than Miss Great Britain. Many of the competitors and judges would stay at The Midland. Recently we invited the girls of 1968 back for a reunion dinner.
The Midland has hosted many famous faces over the years, and quite a number came to switch on the Morecambe & Heysham Illuminations, including…
Acker Bilk, the musician famous for the timeless classic ‘Stranger on the Shore’. Stewart tells us that after lunch he and his brother went up to the family living room to listen to our favourite Yogi bear record on the family radiogram. The foyer and restaurant were very busy with residents and clients eating and drinking with some suitable Acker Bilk background music. All of a sudden this was replaced with Yogi Bear and Boo Boo planning a special “pic-a-nik”. I don’t think my dad had ever moved as fast, racing up the stairs to fix the problem! How were we to know that someone had wired our record player to the restaurant?
Sir Roger Moore
Roger Moore switched the illuminations on in Morecambe in 1965 and stayed at the hotel. As you can imagine, there were a lot of hysterical fans desperate to get a glimpse of him and some had climbed on the scaffolding that was in place for exterior painting. I remember Dad being fearful that someone would fall off, but fortunately nobody got hurt.
Roger mentioned that he loved Morecambe Bay Shrimps and one member of staff went out of their way to go out and buy him some but forgot to give him them as he was leaving the Hotel. Another team member jumped into his car and chased Roger Moore down the M6 and managed to catch up with him and gave him the shrimps.
Max Bygraves was a regular celebrity visitor and became friends with my parents.
A young Max Bygraves judging Miss GB 1968
Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell aka Steptoe & Son, the hugely popular sitcom. In their honour, Chef arranged a cake in the form of their Rag & Bone cart.
Mr and Mrs Speirs with Simon Dee
Simon Dee, TV personality/DJ and a cameo role in The Italian Job. The Midland pastry cook made an icing sugar replica of his signature E Type jaguar.
Now if we can track that pastry cook down, she would be a very worthy +1 winner!
The Midland Hotel is quite different in many ways to the 1960’s hotel that was Stewart’s home. However, it retains many of the original features and all of the style! He commented…
The Midland will always have a very special place in my heart, and it is great to see it looking so good, and it being in good hands.