Mother and daughter Ray and Colette Williams had long grown used to people poking fun at their obsession with Sir Cliff Richard.

But when they heard Radio 2 had decided to ban Cliff’s Christmas offering from the airwaves in November 1999 they decided enough was enough.

They set off for London from their home in Orchard Road, Horsham, at 4am and joined other fans in a protest outside Broadcasting House, calling on the BBC to reverse the decision.

But Cliff, who was hoping for a Yuletide chart topper with The Millennium Prayer, a version of the Lord’s Prayer set to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, had his hopes dashed.

The announcement that the single would not be playlisted sparked a furious reaction from fans.

The Argus: A fan meets Cliff Richard at Brighton circa 1950s

Ray, 70, and Colette, 52, joined a small group who braved the cold to stage a five hour demonstration.

Ray said: “I went because I couldn’t believe they weren’t going to play Cliff’s record. They have to play the record.

“Everyone who makes a record has the right to have it played, and then people have the choice whether they like it and whether they want to buy it or not.

“Cliff deserves respect, the same respect he gives to other people.

“He’s done so much for charity and Radio 2 shouldn’t treat him so shabbily.

“They play Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart and even Tom Jones – he’s got much more to offer.

Ray added: “The song is lovely. I’d love to see it going to number one, that would show everyone.”

The Argus: Fans enjoy watching Cliff Richard performing in Brighton circa 1950s

The mother and daughter had seen Cliff’s musicals Time and Heathcliff 70 times each and had met their idol on several occasions.

Their home was crammed with Cliff memorabilia, from records to life-size cardboard cut-outs of the star.

Their most prized possession was a green jacket that he regularly sported with a pair of white trousers in the seventies.

When Colette first became a fan, her mum used to take her to concerts and then wait outside to collect her because they could not both afford to go in. But since those early days the pair have travelled the world to see Cliff.

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They ran the Horsham and Crawley Meeting House, a club for local Cliff fans.

Ray said: “We all love him dearly.

“That is why we’ve travelled all over the world to see him, even as far as Dubai.”

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Another Cliff superfan was Lorraine Winthorpe-Tyers, who met her idol at a concert 41 years ago – but failed to see him play.

Then aged 13, Lorraine was given a backstage pass and was lucky enough to have her photo taken with the star.

It was one of the most exciting encounters she has ever had, but she did not see the show itself because she had to stay backstage.

Lorraine made up for missing him in 1961 by seeing Sir Cliff on stage at the Brighton Centre in November 2002.

She proved her devotion by travelling 200 miles to the concert from her home in Leicester with fellow fan and friend Louise Phillips, 59.

The Argus: Lorraine got backstage access at the 1961 concert after writing to the music correspondent of her local newspaper and asking if she could go with her.

As well as meeting Cliff and The Shadows, she also got to meet several other stars of the era.

She said: “It was really exciting. I was a member of the fan club and I am wearing my badge in the photo.

“I did not get to say much to him but at least I have got the photo to remember it by. He was very nice.

“I thought he was an excellent singer.

It was obvious he was not going to be here today and gone tomorrow.

“He was going to be here for a long while and he has proved me right.”

 

Don't miss our eight page coverage of Cliff's concert in Hove in Monday's Argus