EVERGREEN Seymour Borlant has a deep well of memories from his double-life as a colourful market trader and professional crooner.

But it is the time he was asked to perform with a cat on television in Cairo that springs immediately to mind when he’s asked for a favourite anecdote from his time on the road with the likes of Cliff Richard, Gene Vincent, Frankie Vaughan, Des O’Connor, and Marty Wilde.

It’s the unlikeliest of stories which goes back to Seymour, now 83, starting from scratch by setting up a soft furnishings outlet on Darlington’s historic covered market back in 1953. 

Having come straight from national service with the Army, Seymour launched himself into the retail business and his auctioneering performances on the market became the stuff of local legend.

However, showbusiness was his first love and the lure of the stage proved irresistible. He soon left the market stall to go on the circuit under the stage name of Gary Seymour, supporting some of the greats.

After one stint with The Cliff Richard Show, Seymour embarked on a tour of the Middle East and ended up in Egypt, where he was approached by Cairo TV. He was asked to go into the studio and record two songs – Misty and Till – before miming them a week later on a television show.

Music aficionados may know that Misty begins with the line “Look at me, I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree” and it was this particular lyric that gave the producer the bright idea of involving a cat in Seymour’s televised performance.

“I turned up for the show in my pristine white tuxedo and Tony Curtis hairstyle, and they suddenly thrust this kitten at me without warning,” recalls Seymour. “Halfway through, with the cameras rolling, it got stage-fright, went barmy,  and started clawing at me.”

Seymour carried on singing and by the time he’d reached the second verse – “Walk my way, And a thousand violins begin to play” – the cat had made its way up onto his shoulder.

“That’s when it decided to sh*t all down my white tuxedo,” he says. It was the nearest he ever got to the hit parade.

Despite the smell being “absolutely horrendous”, it was a classic case of the show must go on and Seymour – alias Gary – finished the song before taking a bow and angrily shoving the cat at the producer back-stage.

What did the producer say? “He just told me not to be too upset because it looked very natural,” replies Seymour with a smile.

And with that, he’s a born entertainer again, throwing a few nifty dance moves and giving an impromptu rendition of Misty: Look at me, I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree…

AFTER 66 years, Seymour’s Soft Furnishings is no longer part of Darlington Market.
Under the management of Seymour’s son, Jeremy, Seymour’s Home has moved into a stylish new store in nearby Grange Road.

“Darlington’s been good to me and, hopefully, I’ve been good to Darlington, so we had to stay in the town,” says Seymour.

At a time when it’s all doom and gloom around town centres, the move represents a £250,000 investment. Call me a Misty-eyed romantic, but I reckon that deserves our support. Go on – stick some money in the Till…

OUR Lady Immaculate and St Cuthbert’s Church, in Crook, was overflowing with sorrow last week for the funeral of Roger Kelly, a man whose contribution to the North-East was rightly described as “immense”.

As chief executive of Gateshead Council, Roger’s influence was felt on projects that led to the Angel of the North, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, The Sage, and the Millennium Bridge.
It was a pleasure to work with him more recently on the ongoing renaissance of Ushaw, on the outskirts of Durham. He was a kind, talented man with a steely determination, and he will be greatly missed.

Amid the tears, there was room in the church for laughter as Ushaw’s President, Monsignor John Marsland, gave the eulogy. Roger, a man known for great organisational skills, was awarded the OBE in 2013 but left it on the train back home.

Then there was the time he was studying law at Liverpool and he joined the university ballroom dancing club. Members were tasked with fundraising by dancing through the city and asking members of the public to join them.

And that’s how Roger Kelly found himself dancing down a Liverpool street with Cilla Black’s mum. Rest in peace, Roger.

ONTO a glamorous performance of my own, this time as guest speaker at the Women’s Fellowship of Holy Trinity Church, in Darlington, to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

It was all going so well until the industrial dish-washer in Walkington House community centre burst into life, and started making a noise like a jumbo jet taking off, while two women battled with the controls.

For the record, the dishes are good as new – and a great charity has £500 in the kitty.

FINALLY, I’m relieved to report that I survived being the knife-thrower’s target at the Darlington Magic Circle’s Easter Show.

I can honestly say it was the scariest experience I’ve had since my vasectomy.
Circle president, Ian Wragg, has promised “something even better” next year. 

Shame – I think I’m away for Easter 2020.