A mysterious old newspaper report on the discovery of vintage footage featuring Skegness’s iconic mascot The Jolly Fisherman has instigated a fresh hunt for the prized relic.
Skegness historian Angela Gooch stumbled upon the intriguing story while trawling through old editions of the Skegness News from December 1999.
The report claims that an old 1930s cine film featuring never before seen footage of ‘Jolly’s early japes’ was found in a time capsule buried beneath Skegness Clock Tower.
It was allegedly discovered during the burial of another time capsule celebrating the Clock Tower’s centenary and later given its first public showing after weeks of ‘painstaking’ restoration work.
But despite the film’s notable historic value, Angela has been unable to find any further reference to the footage, prompting her quest for answers.
“Although I’ve asked around, nobody seems to remember anything about the cine film or knows of its whereabouts,” she said.
“I’ve been told that the story was probably a publicity stunt, but I can’t believe that - the story is quite specific, even about the day it was publicly shown - would the newspaper print a downright falsehood like this? I don’t think so.”
Angela hopes that someone who remembers the story or attended the film’s public showing will shed more light on the subject and possibly even identify its current whereabouts.
But despite her faith in the truth of the story, there are strong suggestions it may have been a marketing ruse carried out by a renowned Skegness publicist, famed for his outlandish efforts to gain media attention for the town.
Bob Suich, who was then the head of tourism and leisure at East Lindsey District Council, is reported as the source of the story.
Although his memories of the events in question are rather vague, Mr Suich says it sounded like one of the many ‘crackpot stunts’ his team might have attempted.
“We did it all the time - we had a really good relationship with the national media and it gained us lots of positive coverage,” he said.
“Whenever they were looking for a seaside resort they’d always come to us, never Scarborough or Bridlington - always Skegness.
“I can’t remember the time capsule at all but it sounds like one of the crack pot stunts that we came up with.”
During his 15 years in the role, Mr Suich carried out many mad-capped publicity stunts, gaining primetime national television coverage for the resort.
One winter he braved the freezing North Sea on four separate occasion to be filmed by each of the various news networks in an attempt to counter disparaging claims that the water was not fit for bathing.
On another occasion, reports that the Clock Tower was tilting, prompted Mr Suich to name it The Leaning Tower of Skegness, gaining half a page of coverage in the Daily Mail.
And when Channel Four’s Big Breakfast show sought sand for a feature it was running, Mr Suich shovelled up a car load from Skegness beach, drove it to the London studios and once again secured prime airtime for his beloved town.
He even appeared on an episode of Watchdog about British holidays to convince Tara Newley, the daughter of Joan Collins, to visit the resort.
“I had the magic moment of giving her a can of Skegness air - she took one sniff and decided to come - it was a gamble but it paid of,” he said.
Although Mr Suich is no longer head of leisure and tourism, his passion for Skegness remains just as strong today.
“Skegness is a fantastic place to have a great worry-free time,” he said.
“It’s a really friendly resort, which welcomes you with open arms and has everything you could need from Blue Flag beaches to lovely surrounding countryside.
“So in all my time publicising the resort I never though I was saying anything misleading because I truly believe it is such a great place.”
As for the vintage footage of Jolly, though he can’t remember the event, Mr Suich feels he may have been capitalising on rumours going around to gain more attention for Skegness.
He said: “I think it’s brilliant that someone has been intrigued by it even today, because that’s exactly what we would have been trying to do back then and if it’s still succeeding that’s great.”
If you can shed more light on the mystery call the office on 01754 897120 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.