In Irvine, if you were to ask those of a certain age who they remembered from their local music scene, one name would stand out from the rest – Legendary Irvine Music and Entertainment Promoter, Willie Freckleton. Also known as ‘Mr Entertainment’, he was responsible for putting on some epic music events.
Not really knowing much about Willie, I had to rely on research which, frustratingly, led me up a twisted cul-de-sac. I thought long and hard about how best to approach this. Then I realised that Willie Freckleton was responsible for one of the most memorable nights of my own life.
On Sunday 22nd September 1985, The Smiths kicked-started their seven-date Scottish tour in the iconic Magnum Leisure Centre, Irvine. I had already missed Thin Lizzy, The Jam, The Clash, Chucky Berry and the Big Yin himself, Billy Connelly, amongst many others, so I sure wasn’t going to miss this!
Thanks to Billy Paton, a guy who was a butcher (I’m sure Morrissey wouldn’t approve*) at Grants Food Factory where I worked at the time, I obtained a few tickets (he knew a guy, who knew a guy…).
I remember the atmosphere was incredible that night and so was the heat. When I entered the hall with my brother, Eddie, and pals, Donny and Gillon, it was literally bursting at the seams.
The 18-year-old me was full of excitement, hope and expectation. When The Smiths finally came on stage, the crowd went wild with fanatical admiration. The opening song, ‘Shakespeare’s Sister’ caused an explosion of absolute joy. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was transfixed.
Some of the more adventurous managed to get on stage and at one point we saw Gillon hugging Morrissey! That still makes me laugh when I think about it, particularly as Gillon is now high up in the New Zealand Government!
Make no mistake, a lot of people think The Smiths were just moaning miserabilists. But anyone who saw them perform live that night will testify that they rocked and shook The Magnum’s very foundations. We were treated to a classic set with not one, not two, but three encores!
Now, I can only write about the joy that Willie Freckleton and his endeavors brought to all present on that Sunday night in Irvine, and I like to think that he was somewhere in the audience witnessing for himself what a success it had been.
I’m sure many other people had similar experiences with different bands that Irvine’s ‘Mr Entertainment’ brought to the area. Just as The Smiths were important to the music scene of the 80s, Willie repeated a similar feat when he brought Oasis to Irvine Beach Park in the 90s. He seemed to be tuned into what was really happening in the music world and booked bands which were not only well established but beginning to break through. I’m sure plenty of other music fans had amazing experiences due to gigs that Willie put on.
Sadly, Willie took his final curtain call in 2011. However, his legacy lives on through Freckfest which started in Irvine 10 years ago. The aim of the festival is to bring a variety of acts to Irvine and the surrounding area and to ensure Willie Freckleton’s light never goes out.
- Morrissey (an original member of The Smiths) is vegan and a vocal advocate of animal welfare and animal rights issues.