Film ID:
NEFA 10797

MUHAMMAD ALI VISIT TO THE NORTH EAST 1977

1977

Visitor Tabs

Description

Compilation of unedited Tyne Tees Television news footage covering the arrival and visit of world boxing champion Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) to the north east region in July 1977 for a four-day charity tour to help raise money for local boys boxing clubs. South Tyneside (Whitburn) painter and decorator Johnny Walker, who ran a boxing club in South Shields, prompted Ali’s visit.

A plane arrives at Newcastle Airport. Passengers exit the plane. However, Muhammad Ali’s flight was diverted to Teesside Airport due to fog and he is not on the plane. Coach loads of juvenile jazz bands gather outside the airport terminal to form a reception for Ali. They pose cheekily for the camera crew and one of the bands play kazoos. The TV interviewer conducts vox pops about Ali with some members of the junior jazz bands in their colourful outfits. Some are willing to wait for the later flight. The interviewer rouses a song from one young group. The bands line up beside their banners. General views follow of the bands playing and the interviewer conducts more vox pops.

A British Midland plane lands at Teesside Airport. Muhammad Ali appears at the top of the plane stairs holding his baby daughter, Hana. The ex-South Shields boxer Johnny Walker is behind him in the plane doorway. They descend the stairs to make way for Ali’s wife, Veronica Porché Ali.

Muhammad Ali cradles his daughter Hana in the media scrum on the tarmac at Teesside Airport, crowds of reporters surrounding him. Tony Cook interviews Ali. In answer to his question, Ali answers: “We always surprise people like that. They just can't believe that a common everyday man like Johnny Walker can bring the world's greatest fighter to Newcastle … ". Cook continues his interview, mentioning the visit coinciding with Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee. Ali admits to getting old and declines to perform his famous “butterfly float”. He says he is happy to be here and hopes that people will support his being here to raise money for boys clubs. When asked if his proposed marriage blessing at South Shields will go ahead, he replies that if Johnny Walker says everything’s alright, it’s okay with him.

Muhammad Ali, wife and daughter walk down the aircraft steps of their plane at Newcastle Airport. A large crowd of fans, TV cameras and reporters are there to greet him. Police guide him through the cheering crowds.

Mute footage follow of the aircraft taxiing on Teesside Airport runway, and the pilot speaking from the cockpit. Ali and entourage smile and wave from the aircraft doorway, and walk down to face reporters on the tarmac. Ali answers reporters’ questions as his group make their way to the airport terminal. Some fans shake hands with Ali and request autographs inside the terminal. The world heavyweight boxer answers questions from reporters, including a woman journalist, as he and his family walk to the waiting car provided by Mill Garages, fans shaking his hand through the car window as they leave. Ali kisses his baby daughter.

Huge crowds, including Muslims from across the North East, are there to greet Muhammad Ali and his family in South Shields as the car makes its way to the Al Azhar Mosque in the industrial heart of the town. Exterior shot of the mosque. Inside the mosque, Muhammad Ali and wife have their marriage blessed in a ceremony by the imam, Ali wearing a striking all-white suit. The Excelsior boxing booth impresario Ron Taylor is amongst guests at the ceremony. Interview with Ali at the reception where he is impressed by the warmth of his reception in the North East, and is moved to say, "I've never been so honoured, not even in America itself by Government officials and authority". He also says: "I'm overjoyed, and next time I go into the ring, I will remember how many people I have routing for me back here."

Mute footage follows of Ali, wife and one-year old daughter traveling to the blessing of their wedding in an open-topped horse-drawn carriage; family and friends inside the Al Azhar Mosque at the wedding celebration party, Ali feeding his daughter Hana the toast of orange juice; guests and crowds inside and outside the mosque.

Muhammad Ali’s motorcade drives through a crowd of thousands lining the road in South Shields. A brief shot of Ali and family in the horse-drawn carriage.

Roger Tames interviews Muhammad Ali about his career and the visit to the north east at the celebration after the blessing at the Al Azhar Mosque. He mentions his visit to Newcastle’s Pendower Hall Special School and accidently refers to “Yardies” rather than Geordies as he praises the warmth of people in the north east. Further shots follow of Ali, family and guests at the reception after the blessing ceremony.

Muhammad Ali is at a visit to Grainger Park Boys Club, Newcastle upon Tyne, along with Johnny Walker. He mock boxes and greets young boxers and guests inside the club. A man in a Lonsdale T-shirt raps his tribute poem to Ali much to the amusement of the crowd. Ali continues to mock box outside the ring and is introduced to more of the young trainees.

Ali and Johnny Walker watch a boxing bout between two young brothers, followed by other short bouts. He jokily shadow boxes at the side of the ring.  Ali climbs in the ring and spars briefly with the club coach, then with former British Olympic middleweight gold medallist, Barry Spinks, both in their suits, and other boxing celebrity guests. Terry Downes, former world middleweight champion, stands in the ring with Ali, shyly. Local lad Les Close gets into the ring and boxes with Ali.

The final sequence is of Muhammad Ali’s departure from Newcastle Airport. Ali and his daughter say goodbye to the crowd gathered at the terminal building. The plane takes off in the rain.