Sunderland memories of a very special hotel visitor

Archie Laidler with the current hotel team. From left, Sharon Cockburn, Eamonn Thompson, Jayne Harms, Liz Codling, and Becca Brown.
Archie Laidler with the current hotel team. From left, Sharon Cockburn, Eamonn Thompson, Jayne Harms, Liz Codling, and Becca Brown.
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Sunderland has welcomed many celebrities over the decades.

But one man struck a chord when he became a regular visitor to one of the city’s hotels.

Hotel Regional Manager Eamonn Thompson with Archie and Hotel Executive PA Liz Codling.

Hotel Regional Manager Eamonn Thompson with Archie and Hotel Executive PA Liz Codling.

With the arrival of summer Archie Laidler would begin expecting the arrival of one particular and completely unassuming guest who always arrived by taxi.

That was back in the early 1970s when Archie was Head Waiter of the Seaburn Hotel on the sea front in Sunderland. The guest was the now world famous matchstick men artist L.S. Lowry.

Archie, aged 69, of Southwick, Sunderland, took a trip down memory lane and returned to the renamed Marriott Sunderland to share his memories with the current hotel team.

He recalled: “Mr Lowry always came for a fortnight at some point during the summer and reserved room 120 because it had large windows from which he had painted in earlier days.

He would always start with a large glass of tomato juice followed by porridge and bacon and eggs and a pot of tea and would then set out for a walk along the prom or go off on the bus for the day.

Archie Laidler

“He was an incredibly private man who came down to breakfast just before 9.30am as we were beginning to finish the service and most guests had already departed.”

Archie’s superb memories include recollections of just how polite the great man always was.

“He called all the staff, including the manager, ‘sir’, always sat at table seven at the far end of the then restaurant and his breakfast order never varied,” said Archie who started his hotel career at the former Grand Hotel in 1964 and moved to the Seaburn in 1969.

“He would always start with a large glass of tomato juice followed by porridge and bacon and eggs and a pot of tea and would then set out for a walk along the prom or go off on the bus for the day.”

Inside the Seaburn Hotel in times gone by.

Inside the Seaburn Hotel in times gone by.

The wonderful memories just kept on coming from Archie who also remembered the stylish outfit of L.S. Lowry.

“His dress never varied from a black hat, dark grey suit and walking stick and you could still see little paint marks which had failed to come out of the suit.”

A tasty lunchtime meal was occasionally enjoyed by the famous painter and Sunderlan man Archie remembers the finer detail of it.

“Sometimes he would be in for lunch and his favourite was cold roast beef and chips followed by bananas and cream,” said Archie.

“We always had a special Sunday lunch menu which was blank on the back and during the times he stayed up until his death in 1976 he did sketches which he signed and presented to four of our young waitresses.”

Lowry’s visits also brought other memories of stories.

“One time when Carry on Actress Dora Bryan was staying she wanted to take him to the Empire where she was appearing but Lowry roped me to helping him avoid her.

“We spent quite a lot of time chatting together and I always remember him telling me that he liked to go to the Isle of Man on holiday and that I should always take a holiday because it made you appreciate your home.

“One time I told him I had been on a train and there was music playing and he didn’t like the thought of that at all.”

Archie, who has lived in Sunderland ever since he was six, worked at the hotel for 21 years and was joined for his trip down memory lane followed by lunch by former colleague Executive PA Liz Codling who is still at the hotel and will also celebrate her 40 years there in November.

Liz said: “Archie was always telling me these wonderful stories about Mr Lowry so seeing summer has just started I thought it would be a lovely idea to invite him back,” she said.

Marriott Regional General Manager Eamonn Thompson said he was delighted to welcome Archie back to the hotel and he was sure both the hotel team and others would be fascinated by his memories.

Do you have memories of Sunderland in times gone by and would you like to share them?

We would love to hear from anyone wanting to talk about an event in Sunderland’s history, or a well known shop that they knew and loved.

Perhaps there’s a street in the city you’d like to tell us about, and how it has changed.

Or maybe you would like to share you own family’s history.

We would like to hear from you. Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk and share those memories.