Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Fame Game

Did you know that Beartrix Potter (pictured above looking surprisingly attractive and, might I add, not at all like Renee Zellweger’s annoying portrayal of her) was cremated at Carleton Crematorium?
Well, presumably because she was dead.
Ah…you mean, why Carleton and not somewhere closer to her beloved Near Sawrey? To be honest I don’t know the answer to that. All I can tell you is that the day before she died, Beartrix Potter informed her shepherd (yes, she had her own personal shepherd), Tom Storey, that she wanted to be cremated and have her ashes scattered in the fields around Hill Top Farm, so the chances are that Carleton was the nearest crematorium for the job.
The point is that Beartrix Potter was just one of numerous famous names who, in their own personal (and generally unexpected) fashion, have somehow been connected to the Fylde and Wyre.
Take John Cody Fidler, for example, who was born in Cleveleys on the 9th August 1944.
What do you mean, you don’t know who that is? Well, the chances are you’d probably know him better as John Simpson, I suspect, the BBC war correspondent. Yes, that’s the one, in the portrait below. (I figured that all the images of him scattered around the Internet were copyrighted to the BBC, so I decided to do the right thing and draw him up instead.)

Then there was John Lennon. No, of course he wasn’t born in the Fylde and Wyre. He was a Scouser through and through. However, as a child, he used to spend his summer holidays at his Aunt’s house in Fleetwood. You see, John Lennon’s cousin, Stan, used to attend Rossall School and, well, there’s nowt quite like a free holiday home when budgets are a bit stretched, is there?
Because of the amount of time he spent in Fleetwood, Lennon ended up supporting Fleetwood football team (somebody had to), became fans of the Fleetwood Flyers Speedway Club (whoever they are) and learned to swim at Fleetwood baths. He also became a lifelong fan of that other local legend and musician, George Formby (possibly because George and his missus, Beryl, used to wave at him whenever he went past on the bus to Preston).
In fact, by way of a tribute to Formby, the Beatles video ‘Free As a Bird’ concludes with a George Formby look-alike playing a banjo accompanied by the back-to-front Sgt. Pepper style message: ‘It’s turned out nice again’.
Don’t believe me?
Right…here’s the video then (and for your information I object to being called a fantasist).

If memory serves one of George Formby's catchphrases is uttered by Lennon somewhere on ‘Let it Be’…but don’t quote me on that.
As it happens one of the members of Wyre Archaeology (Mr. Colin Bliss, no less) lives just round the corner from me in what he affectionately calls ‘The John Lennon’ house. Apparently journalists not infrequently turn up on his doorstep wanting to see the childhood photographs and other memorabilia associated with our now dead Beatle, and, no doubt at some point in the not too distant future, I’ll be doing the same.
Now that you’re all in possession of this information it’ll come as no real surprise to discover that John Lennon’s first wife (as opposed to the evil pixie he later married) Cynthia was also a black pudding/sand grown un/Blackpool lass. He didn’t actually meet her in Blackpool, of course. They met at Art College in Liverpool. But she was still a Blackpudlian, regardless.
In later years, because of his fondness for the town, John returned to Fleetwood accompanied by his fellow mop tops and played the Marine Hall. Imagine that…the greatest pop group in history playing to a capacity audience of about one hundred and fifty cod heads. According to urban legend, with typical Fleetwood hospitality, they were booed off the stage.
Not that the occurrence seems to have had much impact, the Beatles’ later hit ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ (that’s the song, not the terrible and, quite frankly, embarrassing ‘Television Spectacular’) was allegedly inspired by a tram ride through Blackpool Illuminations. (A large quantity of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds consumed before hand probably helped with the more magical aspects.)
Blackpool and Fylde college has produced a few famous off-spring in its time as well. John Simm (probably best known nowadays for playing the lead role in Life On Mars, not to mention the latest reincarnation of Dr. Who’s nemesis, the Master) was born in West Yorkshire, spent most of his childhood on the move around various Lancastrian outposts, and eventually settled in St. Anne’s where, at the age of sixteen, he enrolled in the college.
Then there was John Clark, the Scientist who developed the genetic modification of livestock resulting in everybody’s favourite cloned sheep, Dolly.
To be honest, I could go on like this for hours…and on another occasion, I probably will. For now though, suffice it to say that next time anybody remarks that nobody interesting ever emerged from the Fylde and Wyre, tell them to do some more research.


Anonymous said...

You paint your local region out as a tight-knit community with a rather excellent Beach Road School.

I hope you didn't use any hyperbole in your descriptions.

Brian Hughes said...


Beach Road School was excellent. It had to be 'cos I went there. As for hyperbole, I'd never stoop to using such a thing in a million, billion years.

Andrew said...

So George Formby lived in Fleetwood. I am vaguely impressed.

Is your Carleton connected to our Carlton?..........Oh, yeah, we have done that already.

St Anne's is a decent way from you, although you can take a very long tram ride to get there.

Very apt post though, because I was home early tonight and caught Antiques Roadshow on the tv. Has that been filmed in Fleetwood?

Brian Hughes said...


George Formby didn't actually live in Fleetwood itself. He owned two houses in the Fylde though, both called Beryldene (after his wife). The one that he'd have waved to John Lennon at would have been the Beryldene on Mains Lane in Singleton (close to Mains Hall). The other Beryldene was in St Anne's, I think.

As for the Antiques Roadshow being filmed here, I've no recollection of that ever happening. (It might have done...I just don't remember it.) They did film Question Time in Fleetwood once or twice though...and Maggie Thatch got an egg thrown at her head when passing through once, which I'm particularly proud of. (Hopefully she got the message and she'll never pass this way again.)

Jayne said...

Inspired by Lennon's birthday?
You described that creature he married very aptly, evil pixie indeed!
It's Dorian Grey-style portrait is letting a few cracks in of late, can't wait to see it melt like the Wizard of Oz witch :P

Brian Hughes said...


I take it you're not a bit fan of old Yoko then?

Jayne said...

I suspect I'll suddenly become a fan when she drops off the twig and will religiously watch the funeral footage on TV to make sure no stake or silver bullet is needed :)

Brian Hughes said...

Right...so the melodic resonances of Revolution No.9 doesn't do it for you then?

Jayne said...

Oh yes...when the prune juice isn't working :P

Brian Hughes said...

Personally, I found that it made me tap my feet uncontrolably. I could listen to it over and over for hours...or just once, perhaps, 'cos it tends to go on for several hours anyway. Always a great track to play at parties. Nearly as great as that one she released of her stillborn child's last heartbeats. Can't understand why it didn't reach number one in the hit parade that 'un.

bignick47 said...

Did Miss Potter do tricks with bears - or did you just spell her name wrong?

bignick47 said...

I heard, while researching my Blackpool Book, that there were no crematoria in the Lakes for many years and so several of their worthies were frazzled at Carleton. Beatrix's ashes were scattered on her land after the service by her shepherd, Tom Storey.

Brian Hughes said...

Nick...good spotting. I was wondering when somebody would notice this week's deliberate mistake. That's why I put it in...twice. (Ahem...)

Regardless of the spelling, I believe she did wrestle the odd grizzly, but what she did in her spare time with the curtains closed is no concern of mine.

Jayne said...

Nothing a good old fashioned backyard bonfire couldn't fix :P

Brian Hughes said...

Bunging grizzlies on a bongy? Isn't that how Bear Grylls got his name?

Ann O'Dyne said...

Up until I read this lot, I would have associated Formby with Herman's Hermits.
While adoring the idea of JWLennon from the moment he hove into view, I cannot help think MarkChapman The Bastard was in the employ of Cyn in revenge for the dirty treatment.

Never mind all those other ponces, the award for the most agreeable and talented Son Of Fleetwood goes (of course) to Sir Brian of Wylde.

Brian Hughes said...


Brian Wylde? Didn't he used to play Foggy Dewhurst in Last of the Summer Wine?