Christmas specials by Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise were once synonymous with the festive season.

A long-lost Morecambe and Wise episode discovered in Harpenden will air on Christmas Day this year after being discovered in an attic by Eric Morecambe’s son, Gary.


Dating from 1970, the 45-minute show was the comedy duo’s first for BBC One and dates from October that year after they moved from BBC Two.

Clips from the historic episode have already been screened on ITV as part of a documentary.

The missing tape has now been colourised by the BBC and the complete episode can be watched on Christmas Day (Saturday, December 25) at 7.45pm on BBC Two.

Eric Morecambe lived in Harpenden before his death in May 1984, and the Hertfordshire town's new cultural centre is named after the comedy legend.

An oil painting of Eric Morecambe by artist George Anthony Rowe from 1970 also hangs in pride of place in the new Eric Morecambe Centre.

The long-lost episode came to light when Eric's son, Gary Morecambe, discovered seven canisters in the attic of his mother’s house in Harpenden while searching for old scripts last year.

His agent sent them off to be examined by experts who found they contained film.

One featuring part of a BBC sticker contained the lost episode. The episode had originally been wiped from the BBC archive by the broadcaster so the tape could be reused for other programmes.

Gary Morecambe said the newly unearthed episode, which contains a sketch about a radio call-in challenge, represents “a golden era of television”.

He told BBC News he was “staggered” when he received a phone call confirming the episode had been found and was salvageable.

He added: “But I didn’t realise at that point how far the BBC would go to present it.

“That it would then get colourised, which is fantastic, so it’s been brought bang up to date.

“And also what’s really good is the quality of the show itself, you can see the embryonic Morecambe and Wise come through.”

He added: “It’s a bit like when they found something of Tony Hancock and Dad’s Army, these are important pieces from the golden era of television so to find something that was presumed wiped, and has been sitting in an attic for 50-odd years, that is very exciting and very important.”

Eric Morecambe, who died in 1984 aged 58, and Ernie Wise, who died in 1999 aged 73, are among the most popular and enduring comedy stars in British TV history.

The remastered lost episode will air on BBC Two at 7.45pm on Christmas Day.

It will be preceded at 7pm by the pair’s classic 1971 Christmas show, featuring Andre Previn, Glenda Jackson and Dame Shirley Bassey.