by Joe Collins
A few threads were going around social media recently concerning the history of actress Irene Ryan at Clark Lake. Most longtime residents were aware of Granny’s visits over the years. That got me to thinking about some other dignitaries that visited here, including two English lords.
In the 70’s, my Dad had a business in England (the whole family lived there from 1970 through 1974, while still spending the summer and holidays back home) and had the opportunity to meet a number of well-known people. During this same period, a group of Michigan businessmen were taking the first serious stab at bringing soccer to Detroit (subsequently known as the Detroit Express). One participant was an old colleague and asked if Dad could possibly put them in contact with someone knowledgeable about soccer in England. My Dad – knowing little about soccer – did some research and concluded that the best man for the job would be Sir Alf Ramsey, manager of England’s only World Cup winning team in 1966. When in doubt, start at the top. After some correspondence followed by phone calls back and forth, it was decided that Sir Alf and Lady Ramsey would come to the U.S., stay with us for a week, and consult with the Detroit Soccer people. I remember Sir Alf as a smallish, quiet man (although by reputation, a fiery competitor on the field), and his wife much the same. They enjoyed a couple of raft rides and dinners at the original Eagle’s Nest and the Beach Bar. He came from a working-class background and did not put on “airs.”
Our second “Lord of the Realm” to visit East Liberty and Clark Lake couldn’t have been more different. In the 1960s, Lord George Brown had been one of the leading members in the administration of Prime Minister Harold Wilson and the Labour Party. Although also from a working-class background, Lord George reveled in his title. Lord George was a bombastic, autocratic, bucolic, alcoholic. He could be rude and unkind. He could also be charming and witty, and was very intelligent. Lady Sophie was the exact opposite of George – friendly and reserved.
Several other friends and families from England visited the lake over the years, but, at least so far, Sir Alf and Lord George were the only ones to be knighted by the Queen.
Joe Collins enjoying a more recent raft ride
Editor’s note: The Beverly Hillbillies’ Granny visited the Andrews family in the Eagle Point Cove. For a bit more on Granny, check out Part 2 of Carolyn Zader’s My Clark Lake Story by clicking here. Later this summer, this website will have a story that focuses on this visit from Hollywood.