THE undisputed king of the light entertainment and gameshows was in Swindon this week in 2001.

Thanks to programmes such as Sunday Night at the London Palladium, The Generation Game and The Price is Right, Bruce Forsyth had been an instantly recognisable celebrity for decades.

Three years later, at an age when most people have long since put their feet up, Strictly Come Dancing would bring him yet more fame.

“Entertainer Bruce Forsyth,” we said, “appeared in Swindon for the first time – and came face to face with his biggest ever audience.

“The veteran entertainer, now 73, was at the newly-opened Asda Wal-Mart superstore in Haydon Wick, where he was signing copies of his new autobiography, Bruce.

“The store was packed with weekend shoppers eager to see Swindon’s new retail phenomenon, and the former Generation Game host was kept busy for well over an hour meeting fans and signing copies of the book.”

Asked whether he enjoyed signing sessions, Bruce said: “It’s hard work, but it’s nice that people take the trouble to come out.”

One member of the public had a special reason to be there. Paul Whitlock, of Park North, had spent a decade as the star’s driver.

He said: “We’ve been in touch, but I haven’t seen him for eight or nine years. He was a perfectionist, but he was very, very good to work for, and my children used to call him Uncle Bruce.”

Days earlier, former Beatle George Harrison had died, aged 58, of cancer in Los Angeles.

Like local and regional newspapers across the world, the Adver wrote of their patches’ Beatle connections.

Among ours was nightclub owner Bill Reid, who booked the band to appear at the ballroom of the old McIlroys department store on July 17, 1962 – weeks before the then drummer, Pete Best, was replaced by Ringo Starr.

Mr Reid, who went on to own The Brunel Rooms, said: “They were a very unusual band. They just turned up in a van, got out and got up on stage.

“They were entirely different to the other bands around at the time, who were playing in gold lame costumes.

“People kept telling us they were going to have a hit record, but we heard this all the time.”

We also spoke to the Beatles’ producer, Sir George Martin, who lived near Highworth.

Sir George, who died last year, said: “George was a true friend, intensely loyal, caring deeply for those he loved, and he inspired much love in return.”

Still in the realm of the arts, we spoke to a respected stained glass creator about her latest commission.

Award-winning Sasha Ward had been commissioned to produce a large glass wall for the chaplaincy of the new Great Western Hospital, which was under construction.

She said: “We want to make people come up and use the room, and the light coming through the glass will hopefully make them want to come in.

“But it’s got to provide a peaceful atmosphere and not be too distracting.”

The artist’s later projects in Swindon included a frieze at the entrance of the new Central Library.

National politics touched on Swindon when Estelle Morris, Education Secretary in Tony Blair’s government, agreed to be interviewed by one of our reporters about the chronic underfunding of the borough’s schools.

It had taken us long months of trying to pin the politician down through an assortment of assistants and PR people. Our reporter had even buttonholed Morris as she visited Swindon College on official business, much to her anger.

When the interview took place a couple of weeks after our announcement, we soon realised we might as well not have bothered. Morris said there would be no extra money.

Education in Swindon has, of course, continued to be underfunded by governments since Blair’s, just as it was by the governments which preceded Blair’s.

Morris was made a member of the House of Lords a few years after our interview.

On a happier note, work on what would become the Great Western Community Forest was progressing well.

Our latest story about the project saw us send a photographer and reporter to a former landfill at Shaw.

There we met, among other volunteers planting trees, the Claridge family, who helped with some of the 2,000 juniper, aspen, wild cherry, pine, ash and other species bedded in that day.

In the same issue was another endearing story, this one about a claustrophobic cat called Bubbles.

Having spent the first 18 months of his life locked in a room, Bubbles escaped and lived in the wild before being taken to a cattery, and now needed a home with plenty of space.

One look at his picture was enough to attract a swathe of potential owners.