THE entertainment world is mourning Cilla Black, who came to Bournemouth as a young Merseybeat singer and returned to Dorset as a nationally loved entertainer.

Friends including Sir Cliff Richard and Sir Paul McCartney have led the tributes to the 72-year-old entertainer, whose death was announced at the weekend.

The typist who moonlighted as a hat check girl in Liverpool’s Cavern Club came to the attention of Beatles manager Brian Epstein and went on to have two number one hits in 1964.

She was at Bournemouth’s Winter Gardens in 1964 and 1965 along with other Merseyside artists of the day. In 1979 – after success fronting her own show on prime time television – she returned to the concert hall with The Cilla Black Show, a summer show that included comedian Don Maclean.

She played her first Poole concerts in 1981, during a short run at the town’s Arts Centre.

Cilla was becoming known for TV entertainment shows as much as her singing and in 1983, she brushed the teeth of a crocodile at Poole’s Aquarium for a TV series.

In 1985, she drew long queues at a book signing in Longmans Booksellers in Westover Road, Bournemouth.

“It’s my chuckle book. It’s fun and different stories about different things I have done in my life,” she told the Echo then.

“I have had a few laughs. In fact, I could write another book about the experiences of book signing.”

Cilla’s shows Blind Date and Surprise Surprise brought several local people to national attention.

In January 1988, Pat Blissett, a 63-year-old lollipop lady at Stourfield Junior School, Southbourne, was astonished when a big white car pulled up near her and Cilla got out.

“I didn’t know what to do so I burst into song and gave them a verse of Anyone Who Had a Heart,” she said then.

Pat, of Carlisle Road, Iford, spent the day filming the spot for Surprise Surprise. “It was one of the best days of my life. They even had a clapperboard with Lollipop Pat written on it,” she said.

In 1992, Surprise Surprise astonished 68-year-old Carmel Davey of Newtown by gathering her family from all corners of the globe for their first reunion since 1954.

Cilla’s hit ITV series Blind Date – which she hosted for 18 years – featured several local people, including Bournemouth comedian Paul Nolan, who was branded a “cheating rat” by Blind Date partner Karen Mason after he went off with another girl while appearing on the show.

Former Daily Echo business editor Tim Saunders was on Blind Date in 2001. His date on the show did not go well, but his future wife Caroline Dean, from Highcliffe, was watching on television and recognised him when they met at mo’jive dancing a few weeks later.

Caroline said: “I remember Cilla putting her hand on Tim and saying ‘There is a girl out there for you, chuck, but God knows where’.”

A few weeks later Caroline was at a placement at a school in Weymouth as part of her teacher training when she decided to go dancing at the Corn Exchange in Dorchester.

“I started dancing with Tim and thought ‘I recognise you’.”

Before the selection interview for the show in Bournemouth Tim crashed his Mazda Xedos and arrived at the interview concussed. 

“They obviously liked the crazy fool that appeared before them and a few weeks later I received a letter inviting me onto the show as a stand in,” recalls Tim.

Half an hour before the show number 3 still had not turned up and so Tim was invited to take his place.

“One of the questions I was asked by Leigh, the picker from Scotland, was ‘When I have a sore chest what would you recommend for it?’

“My cheeky reply was ‘My grandfather always recommends Vick but I’m afraid he isn’t here tonight so you’ll have to make do with me!

“That seemed to clinch it and I was picked. We went for a weekend to The Hague, which in the middle of February was pretty chilly. On our return Leigh took a dislike to me and things took a depressing turn especially when she called me ‘a country bumpkin’. I was at an all time low and decided to throw myself into mo’jive dancing in Dorchester. I thank Cilla for the experience and for helping me find Caroline.”

The couple, who now live near Southampton, were married in Bulgaria in 2009. 

Tim adds: “I did let Cilla know my news a couple of years ago and she was happy for me.”