Muhammad Ali play is step back in time for South Shields woman

A new musical about boxing great Muhammad Ali's famous 1977 visit to South Tyneside to have his wedding blessed is set to be a knockout for one borough grandmother.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 5th March 2018, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 5th March 2018, 7:10 am
Muhammad Ali and his wife at the blessing ceremony.
Muhammad Ali and his wife at the blessing ceremony.

It has revived great memories for Narma Jelly, 75, who helped to make white straw bonnets worn by two of Ali’s six bridesmaids, including her late daughter Amanda.

Narma, of Hartington Terrace, South Shields, has already snapped up tickets to the show, titled The Day Muhammad Ali Came To South Shields, which opens on Tuesday, March 6.

Rozia (Roz) Lowe, back left, and Narma Jelly with, front,Elizabeth Salem, Narma's mum.

She is hoping her efforts and those of her late sister-in-law Sheila Kaid, a dressmaker who she joined in creating the bonnets and small accessories pouches, will be mentioned.

The pair were invited to be an integral part of Ali’s big day through family links to the mosque at Laygate, South Shields, where the wedding was blessed.

Afterwards, they were also part of the celebration group invited to join Ali and his entourage at the Gosforth Park Hotel in Newcastle.

Narma said: “I can still remember it all very well, and they are very good memories – I’m very proud to have been involved in such an historic day.

The invitation to Muhammad Ali's wedding blessing.

“We were asked by someone who was organising the day and who had already picked the dresses, if we could make the bonnets for the two youngest bridesmaids.

“Sheila and I made them in the kitchen of her then home in Victoria Road in South Shields.

“The bonnets were white with pink ribbons to tie them under the chin, and we had to sew hundreds of pink flowers all over them.

“I think it took us about two days – I know we went through a lot of coffee.”

Muhammad Ali in South Shields.

Narma recalls her daughter being looked after on the day by a chaperone and having difficulty picking her out inside the crowded mosque.

Following the ceremony, guests drove to the hotel, and Narma remembers seeing Ali close up but not quite personal.

She added: “I saw him there and he looked to be a lovely man, but I didn’t get to meet him.

“I suppose no one was really that interested in the bridesmaids, although Amanda always remembered being part of it.

“She could remember the day, the big hotel, having her hair done and going in a big car to the mosque.

“I don’t know much about this musical but I’m looking forward to seeing it.

“It would be nice if we got a mention and the bridesmaids were remembered.”

She will be attending the musical, written by the award-winning team of David Cooke and Grahame Wright, with her cousin Roz Lowe, 76, and her niece Tonia McKie.

Roz was also at the mosque during Ali’s visit.

David and Grahame’s previous successes are Dance to your Daddy, Dance Across the Tyne, and The Rock.

Rozia (Roz) Lowe, back left, and Narma Jelly with, front,Elizabeth Salem, Narma's mum.

The show runs until Saturday, March 10, and tickets are available from The Customs House box office on 0191 454 1234.

The invitation to Muhammad Ali's wedding blessing.
Muhammad Ali in South Shields.