Tributes as the last Pearly King of Leicester dies

Leicester Mercury June 8th 2011

The last Pearly King of Leicester has died, aged 91.

In his heyday Ernie White spent every Saturday night dressing up in his pearly outfit to collect money for good causes around the city.

He and his wife, Betty, were local celebrities and raised thousands between 1963 and 1994.

The cockney tradition of the Pearly King and Queen was first brought to Leicester nearly 100 years ago by Ernie's father, Bill "Pearly" White, who came to the city from London to set up a stall at Leicester Market.

When he died, Ernie and his wife Betty carried on the tradition.
Betty, 90, said: "We enjoyed every minute of it. We raised a lot over the years but I couldn't guess how much.

"We always dressed up in the costumes and they were both covered in pearl buttons. Ernie was a very good man and a good husband. It's been a terrible shock, losing him."

Ernie's son, Ian, 62, said: "They had competitions for people to guess how many pearl buttons were on my father's suit. People would guess in the hundreds but it was in the thousands.
"Every one of them had to be real pearl and couldn't be bought – they had to be a gift and had to be sewn on by hand."

After retiring in 1994 the couple moved to East Riding, in Yorkshire.

Ernie passed away on Friday, June 3, after a bout of pneumonia. His funeral will be held on June 16, in Yorkshire. To find out more, call the funeral directors, Brighams, on 01262 675124.