Remembering Norfolk’s very own cowboy, Pete ‘The Marshal’ Wood
- Credit: Archant
Twenty-five years after the death of the Marshal, a new Marshal has arrived…named in memory of his wonderful great grandfather. Derek James reports
He was one of the greatest, most talented, generous and popular characters and entertainers ever to have walked the streets of the Wild East.
His name was Pete Wood, known and loved across Norfolk and Suffolk as the Marshal.
Many of you reading will be remember Pete and would have been as shocked as I was when we heard of his sudden death at the age of 55 a quarter of a century ago.
Today I would like to introduce you to the young Marshal. Welcome to Arthur Marshal Wilson, born in April, and given his special middle name to honour and remember his great grandfather.
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His father Benjamin was the apple of Pete’s eye. He used to call him “Boy” after Tarzan….how proud he would be to know his grandson and his wife Elizabeth have now given their young son a middle name with such a special meaning
It was in July of 1995 when Pete died leaving his wife Vivian and daughters Zillah, Bernadette and Naomi (Benjamin’s mum) heartbroken.
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And a posse of fans, followers and friends.
There has been many great characters in these parts the years but few as popular as big Pete. Apart from being a cowboy, he was a great singer and he also appeared over the years as the Red Shadow, Zorro, Rocket Man, Ned Kelly and Howard Keel.
“He was probably the best singer this area has ever known,” said his old sparring partner, Norfolk’s king of comedy, Peachy Mead.
Born into a showbiz family, he first arrived in Norfolk whilst serving in the RAF as a dog handler. He met Vivian. They fell in love and settled down to married life in Norwich.
Peachy recalled how he first met Pete, a gentle giant, while he was booking acts at the old railway club in Norwich. He was an instant hit.
His career took off and he became a cowboy, not any old cowboy, but Marshal Pete, the fastest gun in the East.
A point he proved on Anglia Television after an American (what do they know about cowboys) claimed a new world record by drawing, firing and hitting a target in 0.25 of a second.
Pete took him on and the cameras rolled as he did the same in…0.23 of a second.
Then there was the time Pete hit the streets of downtown Norwich to take on an “outlaw” in Livingstone Street and one of the little boys in the crowd was Olly Day who has also become a great entertainer and Norfolk celebrity..
“I remember the day so well,” said Olly. “There was this shoot-out to win the fastest gun in the East title, all the neighbours came out and all us children made up Pete’s Posse.
”We never had so much excitement, the press and the television cameras turned up and they diverted the Ashworth Bakery delivery vans trying to get to the end of the street.”
And he added: “I would never have thought that years later I would be working alongside the Marshal in various cabaret and theatre shows. What a lovely man he was,” said Olly.
Pete performed at venues across the Eastern Counties and how the people loved him. He has a rare stage presence.
He was the resident star attraction at the Hermanus Club at Winterton. He also opened functions and raised money for local charities. Pete knew more about movies than most and created a fascinating museum at his home.
For many years he was also the celebrity caller at the old Carlton/Gaumont on All Saints Green in Norwich which became a bingo hall after closing as a cinema. So many of the patrons became his friends.
I remember a time when he climbed on the roof of the grand old building, now gone, as Rocket Man
He told me: “I am a lucky man. I always wanted to be a cowboy and I have made a living from it. It is been wonderful.”
Young Arthur will grow up knowing he has been named after an extraordinary man…his great grandfather. The Marshal.