Late into Maundy Thursday evening, BBC national news bulletins were repeating the fact that Morecambe had been the sunniest place in England, recording a breathtaking 12.7 hours of sunshine. This remarkable fact is of immense importance in re-establishing Morecambe as one of our leading holiday resorts.
And yet, not so long ago, Councillor Ron Sands reminds us, the very particular Met Office conditions for ensuring that our resort appeared in the national weather statistics were under serious threat. Indeed for well over five years, it appeared that there would be no hope of fulfilling the Met Office’s requirements. Consequently, other less deserving resorts would have enjoyed these periodic sunshine accolades.
"Fortunately for us, freelance journalist Andrew Wilson refused to accept this situation," Ron recalls. "Single-handedly and with impressive persistence he took up the matter directly with the Met Office and over time convinced them that Morecambe’s long unbroken record of daily weather readings was a precious statistical asset which needed to be preserved and continued into the future."
Up until 2002, Morecambe's sunshine statistics had for years been included in national weather tables, but the service was effectively stopped with the withdrawal of funding for a 5.00pm reading previously taken by council staff in 2004. Only a 9.00am monitoring remained, which the Met Office considered was insufficient for media recognition and stopped including Morecambe in the national list.
As the Morecambe Vsitor noted in a news item in October 2004, The cuts were made despite the fact that Morecambe often comes top or near the top of the national sunshine hours table and the resort has often been described as "the sunniest place in Britain".
Weather records had been kept daily by the council since 1896, and from 1915 these had been sent to the Met Office for their use.
The Council, led by Labour's Ian Barker, initially resisted Andrew's campaign to reinstate the readings, which he argued meant the mentions for Morecambe in national newspapers were worth "tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of pounds in advertising for the resort.
"With the council's weather statistics, particularly the sunshine hours, you have a golden opportunity to generate that sort of publicity free," he argued, "publicity for which others would give their right arm."
In December 2004, Lancaster City Council decided to look at ways to reinstate readings from the Morecambe weather station, with the council continuing to maintain the station, but seeking a local organisation or business to take the readings. In return they would be given a "small honorarium" for their trouble.
Then Council leader Ian Barker said he remained "unconvinced" at the value of the figures but was willing to reinstate readings in partnership with local people.
However, it was not until Morecambe's own Council began work that the matter was addressed, from its very first meeting in 2009. Funding was found to fund the station and a volunteer took readings until 2010, when the latest automatic weather reading equipment was installed at the resort’s weather station and the Councils involvement in data collecton was no longer required.
"And so, last week on the eve of one of our busiest holiday weekends, the nation was told of Morecambe’s favoured position," notes Ron. "Money cannot buy such valuable publicity.
"Thank you, Andrew. Without your campaign we would have lost one of our most precious assets."
• Morecambe: Past Weather Observations