MERSEYSIDE comedian Paul O’Grady has told how he returned to his roots to film for a new TV show.
The Birkenhead-born presenter headed back to Wirral for a series on working class history.
Paul, who also hosts For the Love of Dogs on ITV1, travelled to various parts of the country to talk to people about their lives and experiences.
The BBC1 three-parter, which will air next spring, will look at the homes, communities and places of work from the mid-19th century through to today.
Paul said: “I went back to St Catherine’s Hospital in Birkenhead where I was born. My sister worked there and I used to sell papers there.
“They were worried I would be upset to see St Catherine’s go but you’ve got to move on and they’ve built this fabulous health centre.
“We also went to Port Sunlight where my grandad used to work, it’s gorgeous. And I worked as a bus conductor on my auntie Chrissie’s old 79 route around Birkenhead. I had a ball but there were all sorts of things to remember.
“People had it tough in those days. Some of these highbrow newspapers make out the working classes sit on the sofa all day and watch Jeremy Kyle and that’s always annoyed me.
“I met so many hardworking, decent people. It was really interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Other emotional stops included his grandmother and grandad’s grave at Flaybrick Cemetery and Birkenhead Central Library.
Paul, 57, said: “My sister lives in Little Sutton now and I don’t know anyone there anymore so I don’t go back to where I was born. So it was lovely to go back to Birkenhead.
“There were still lots of places that hadn’t changed. It was sad to see the shops on Church Road and Borough Road boarded up, I remember how vibrant it was when I was a kid.
“The library was under constant threat of closure but it’s beautiful – it was like I’d been there yesterday not 20 years ago.”
But it was another period of his life – the Lily Savage years – which he has reminisced about in his latest book, Still Standing.
As well as filming For The Love Of Dogs, Paul finished the third instalment of his autobiography, which is out on Thursday.
It features tales of his early years on stage and his journey to stardom but also the pain and tragedy in his life.
“There were times when I had to walk away from what I was writing and go find something else to do because it all just became too much.”
The popular host also shares his behind-the-scenes stories of his comic creation, Lily Savage and his time on the club circuit.
Paul will bring back his alter ego when he returns to the London stage this Christmas, playing Widow Twankey in a large-scale production of Aladdin at the O2 arena.
He said: “I keep saying we should be doing this in Liverpool because there’s lots of Scouse references. If we did it in Liverpool we’d never get off the stage, they’d love it.”