A GROUP which celebrates the life and times of a famous comedy duo gathered in Bishop Auckland to mark the 55th anniversary of one of their deaths.

The town's Auckland's Hog Wild Tent of the Sons of the Desert - the International Laurel and Hardy Appreciation – Society organised a wreath laying at the town's statue of Stan Laurel yesterday. They were joined by members of Sunderland's Beau Chumps Tent.

The society takes its name from a lodge that the comedians belong to in the 1933 film Sons of the Desert.

In keeping with the tongue-in-cheek “desert” theme, each local chapter of the society is called a tent and is named after a Laurel and Hardy film.

Worldwide, there are well over 100 active tents, whose members meet regularly to enjoy Laurel and Hardy movies in an informal atmosphere.

Bishop Auckland chose the Hog Wild film, in a nod to an ancient Bishop Auckland legend, which tells of a wild boar that rampaged through town Bishop Auckland 700 years ago.

Hog Wild Tent Grand Vizier Peter Jones said: “Laurel and Hardy are still as popular across this country and the world and we don’t want them to be forgotten about in Bishop Auckland.

“We marked the 50th anniversary of Stan Laurel’s death and thought we would do so for the 55th. We also had members of Sunderland Beau Chumps join us.

"It was just a bit of fun. It's just the sort of thing we do really. We never take anything very seriously. We do it for a bit of a laugh. They are still known as the greatest comedy duo."

Beau Chumps Tent Grand Sheik Mike Jones said: "After we dedicated the wreath we all repaired to the Stanley Jefferson pub in the town square and collectively toasted Stan, which was quite nice.

"He is one of my heroes. he was voted the greatest ever English comedian last year. To me Stan was the genius behind the Laurel and Hardy partnership.

"He he did all the work. And he lived for quite a while in the North-East at the turn of the century. Laurel and Hardy are very correctly referred to as two gentlemen who were also gentle men."

It was Bishop Auckland that gave Stan Laurel his taste for the world of entertainment.

For the first year of his life he lived with his grandmother in Ulverston, Cumbria, as his parents Arthur and Madge Jefferson pursued busy lives in North-East theatre, and he was brought to Bishop Auckland in 1891 to be baptised.

By the time he died on February 23, 1965, aged 74, his face was known around the world.