How a Sunderland detective helped The Beatles escape their screaming fans when the Fab Four played at the Empire
Sunderland detective Bill Ford had a unique claim to fame. He helped The Beatles to escape from hundreds of screaming fans.
Bill had the honour of being the Detective Sgt on duty when The Beatles were playing their third gig inside a year in Sunderland, in 1963.
The adoring fans of John, Paul, George and Ringo waited in their thousands outside the Empire at the end of the show, desperate to get a glimpse of the Fab Four.
But the band was led to safety through the CID suite at Gill Bridge station which was next to the Empire.
Sadly, Bill passed away in recent years but his son George can tell us more.
“Excitement levels were high and crowds had gathered outside the theatre as they were about to leave. To avoid the crowds, they were taken out of the back door of the Empire and through the CID offices. My father was on duty that night and when he returned home we were eager to hear everything.”
‘Oh and I got a few signed photographs of The Beatles’
"He wasn’t particularly a Beatles fan and was more into how they had managed to keep them away from the crowds.
"However a throwaway remark was most exciting – dad said ‘Oh here’s a few photographs’
"Sure enough, he received a number of autographed photos which went straight into the card collections of my siblings and I.”
But the Ford family’s links with the Beatles did not end there. Bill and his sons, including George, dressed up as the band and performed at Christmas concerts in Sunderland that same year.
Memories of miming to She Loves You
George said: “The Beatles appearance in Sunderland had created so much excitement that it lead to the entertainment at the 1963 party being my father and my two brothers and I miming to “She loves you.”
Bill was quite the entertainer himself during his 30 years police service in Sunderland as a Pc and then a Detective Sergeant.
Every Christmas while he was in the force, he would perform a comedy act at Christmas for the children of police officers, using the stage name Uncle Bill.
Venues such as Seaburn Hall and Wetherells all saw Bill perform his comedy routine.
It went down an absolute storm for years and he even got his five children - George, Paul, Stephen, Lorraine and Elizabeth - involved in the act.
The day he met Laurel and Hardy
The Beatles were not the only stars that Bill met.
He was patrolling on Low Row, along from the Hat and Feathers pub at the junction with High Street West.
The famous duo turned up to great acclaim - but it was Bill who got to meet them first by knocking on their car window.
George contacted the Sunderland Echo after our recent article on the 60th anniversary of The Beatles coming to Wearside.
We want more of your quirky memories of watching the stars perform in Sunderland.
Did you chat to a celebrity off stage, buy a drink for a TV star, or maybe meet a chart topper when they were staying in a Sunderland hotel?
Tell us more by emailing [email protected]