It was supposed to be a party – but tell that to Les Dawson.

The comic was at his lugubrious best when he switched on Liverpool’s Christmas lights in December 1980.

Famed for his dead-pan monologues and off-key piano-playing, Dawson delighted the crowds with his unique mock-serious brand of humour.

Les Dawson with the Lord Mayor of Liverpool James Ross, December 1980

Les Dawson with the Lord Mayor of Liverpool James Ross, December 1980

Along with the Lord Mayor of Liverpool James Ross, he joined thousands in the city centre for the occasion that traditionally starts the countdown to Christmas.

And even Dawson was forced to smile as the city once again looked forward to the festive season. At least he looks like he’s smiling in our archive photo!

It was laughter all round 11 years earlier when Liverpool’s own Ken Dodd switched on the lights in his usual ebullient style.

Tom O’Connor amid Liverpool’s Christmas lights, November 1972

Tom O’Connor amid Liverpool’s Christmas lights, November 1972

Our photo from 1969 shows him admiring decorations in Church Street along with six-year-old Paula Clee from Toxteth. The look of wonder on her face sums up all the excitement and wonder of Christmas.

Dodd did such a good job he was back a year later in November 1970 with a small army of children dressed as Diddymen.

He paraded through the city centre in a vintage 1911 Renault car, unmistakably dressed in a fur coat and classic Diddyman hat.

Ken Dodd switches on the Christmas lights with Paula Clee, 6, from Toxteth, November 1969

Ken Dodd switches on the Christmas lights with Paula Clee, 6, from Toxteth, November 1969

The Knotty Ash funnyman was the obvious choice to switch on the lights. He was at the height of his fame in 1960s and early 1970s – and his popularity rivalled the Beatles!

His records sold millions worldwide. His single Tears topped the UK singles charts for five weeks in 1965, becoming the third best-selling song of the 1960s.

Back in December 1958, it was down to the Mayor and Mayoress of Liverpool to turn on the lights. The countdown to Christmas started later then as the switch-on day was December 12th.

Liverpool’s Lord Mayor Harry Livermore turns on the city’s festive lights, December 1958

Liverpool’s Lord Mayor Harry Livermore turns on the city’s festive lights, December 1958

Our archive image shows Lord Mayor Harry Livermore and the Lady Mayoress operating a basic lighting box – no fancy switches or golden buttons then!

Another Liverpool favourite, entertainer Tom O’Connor, was the star attraction in November 1972. Born in Bootle, former teacher O’Connor shot to fame on the Granada TV show The Comedians.

In December 1982, the festive lights were switched on by entertainer Tommy Steele, widely regarded as Britain’s first teen idol and rock-and-roll star.

Tommy Steele and Claire Ryan, 6, from Speke marvel at the Christmas tree, December 1982

Tommy Steele and Claire Ryan, 6, from Speke marvel at the Christmas tree, December 1982

Steele had moved into stage, TV and musicals by the 1980s. He’d also starred in a string of films including Half a Sixpence in 1967 and Finian’s Rainbow in 1968.

But he was still hugely popular as the thousands who came to see him proved. Our photo shows him turning on the Christmas tree lights with eight-year-old Claire Ryan from Speke.

Finally, to prove the magic of switching on the city’s decorations never fades, witness the crowds packing Church Street in our photo from November 1986.

Then, as now, the festive season had only just begun.

Crowds pack Church Street to see the Christmas decorations, November 1986

Crowds pack Church Street to see the Christmas decorations, November 1986

*Many more unmissable photos feature in Clive Hardy’s brilliant book Around Liverpool and Merseyside in the 1960s.
 

Comedian Ken Dodd and his Diddymen switch on the Christmas lights, November 1970

Comedian Ken Dodd and his Diddymen switch on the Christmas lights, November 1970