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We all like a wry laugh when things don’t go to plan. I’m the same and it was amusing when I saw the BBC story about County Durham which said that the county’s tourist office had printed 50,000 leaflets all saying that Stan Laurel was born in the county. (It didn’t claim Oliver Hardy was born there as well. He is still American as far as I know.) The tourism people could have named all sorts of people who had been born in Durham including my great grandfathers (but he’s not famous) such as Will Hay, Rowan Atkinson, and Vic Reeves. There’s even Bobby Shafto of the nursery rhyme.

Laurel, who was born in Ulverston where the museum is today was brought up for a while in Bishop Auckland in the county. Today a well-known chain has a pub named after him there and a statue exists as well. But then there is a statue in North Shields as well. And Ulverston. This is probably how the misunderstanding happened. Statue and pub named after him in Bishops Auckland. Must be born there. Hence he’s a Durham man.

But some aren’t misunderstandings. Some are blatant untruths which can deceive the visitor. This goes back a long way. I have copies of an old poster using exactly the same picture for both Dublin and Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Obviously, the lady in the beach couldn’t have been at both so my guess is that this was a stock picture and towns and resorts just added their name over it. In Bahrain, a picture showing rocky cliffs and a coastline last April is not Bahrain and the tourist department mounted an investigation into who was responsible. It wasn’t on the official Bahraini tourism website but does have the official logo on it. It turned out that it was a British coastline, Dorset in fact.

Whether deliberate or not, it does mislead. The Stan Laurel and the Bahrain incident might give us a laugh but what happens if someone is duped? In this age, it’s on the internet in minutes and the world knows. But then, on the other hand, its that place that gets publicity and that might encourage visitors. Well in that case.
Come to sunny Depud and see Norman castles on the beach and see our own Loch Ness monster. Have tea at Beatrix Potter’s summer house (Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed here) and don’t forget to see the place where Stanley discovered Livingstone and Ben Hur was filmed. And if you’re around at Halloween, beware the ghost of the Viking Eric Bloodaxe as he stalks the halls of St Cuthberts’ ruined abbey with his magic laser light show!

But maybe you aren’t fooled so easily!