Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another Round of the Fame Game

It’s time for another selection of home grown talent and famous faces that our readers might or might not know about, kicking off with everybody’s favourite grizzled old uncle, Jim Royle (a.k.a. Ricky Tomlinson) who was born in Bispham.

What do you mean, this isn’t history? Yes it is! It’s just history that’s still going on. Besides, I find it fascinating how many legends have emerged from our area, so stop complaining and read on because you might just learn something. (Probably not…but stop complaining anyhow.)

Ricky Tomlinson was actually born Eric Tomlinson, as we’ve already said in Bispham. Now, obviously at this point you’ll be thinking, but he’s got a scouse accent. Yes, well, that’s because he moved to Liverpool quite early on, worked as a plasterer, became involved in trade union politics, was sentenced to two years in gaol after being found guilty of 'conspiracy to intimidate', and was monitored by MI5 during the 1970s.

Obviously not the run of the mill Bispham tory voter then.

Oh yes…and he appeared in Brookside as well, apparently, but I never watched that so I’ve no idea what his character was called in it.

Moving on, another legendary grumpy owd northerner (at least in her screen persona…my brother used to be her landscape gardener and said that, in real life, she was very pleasant to know) was Ena Sharples from Coronation Street, a.k.a. Violet Carson.


Unlike Ricky Tomlinson, Violet wasn’t actually born in Bispham, but she did spend a large part of her life there in a cottage she’d inherited from her mum and dad. She was actually born in Manchester in 1898 and sixty-two years later auditioned for the role of Ena Sharples. Ena made her first screen appearance in the original episode of Coronation Street on the 9th of December 1960. Five years later Violet, herself, was awarded an OBE. She remained on Coronation Street until forced by ill health to leave in 1981. The character proved so popular, however (because, let’s face it, we all love a good battleaxe) that Violet’s image was recreated as a waxwork in Madame Tussaud’s. She also had a rose named after her and received a Master of Arts degree from Manchester University.

As I said a few moments ago, she lived in Bispham (in an unassuming cottage built by her parents right next to All Hallows church) with her sister Nellie until she died on Boxing Day 1983 (well, she didn’t want to miss Christmas) at the age of 85.
Despite the rumours, she’s not buried at All Hallows church. There’s a commemorative plaque to her there, but the truth is she isn’t buried at all. She, like Beatrix Potter before her (and plenty of other less famous people I should add), was cremated at Carleton Crematorium.
Moving on, I’m sure everybody reading this will instantly recognise this jug-eared, buck-toothed wartime comedian:


Well, when I say everybody reading this, I mean, of course, everybody of a certain age who lived through the Second World War in Britain and enjoyed visiting the cinema will recognise him.

Again, George Formby wasn’t actually born in the Fylde. He was born at number 3, Westminster Street, Wigan, as George Hoy Booth, the eldest of seven surviving children. (Contraception hadn’t been introduced back then…although large families of this type have been making a bit of come back in recent years because of the amount of money being dolled out to council estaters for the sole purpose of breeding…ahem…sorry…wandering from the point a bit there.)

George’s father was James Booth, one of the greatest music hall comedians of his day, so naturally (as is often the case in Lancashire history) he followed in his paternal footsteps.

One of the reasons for his great popularity (and George Formby, although it’s hard to believe now, was absolutely massive back in his day, outselling just about every other Hollywood star/soap powder brand and/or known narcotic at the time) was the smutty innuendo in his songs. In 1937 his classic "Little stick of Blackpool Rock" (an obvious euphemism for gear levers or something) was banned by the BBC because of its lurid and disgusting lyrics...and we all know what a sales boost getting banned by the BBC is. (Me and Michelle have been trying to get our books banned by the BBC for years, but the usual response is, “Never of heard of y’. Now sling y’r ’ook!”

George appeared in numerous films and his catchphrases such as ‘Turned out nice agin ’antit?’ and ‘Ooh mother!’ and other such hilarious ripostes, made his the biggest selling film star of the 1940s.

His notoriously formidable, although her image was probably over-embellished, wife Beryl, (agent, matriarch and woman determined to keep her husband, by all accounts, from contemplating marital affairs by boxing his ears even if he looked at another female) succumbed to leukaemia in 1960. (Regardless of how tyrannical Beryl was always portrayed, theirs had been a strong marriage, George’s two Fylde properties having both been named after her.)

The following year (i.e. 1961) George suddenly decided to marry Pat Howson (a 36-year-old schoolteacher…he must have felt like a child in a sweetshop) but unfortunately suffered a heart attack and dropped dead. (Too many sweeties probably.) Naturally this led to a massive lawsuit concerning his legacies, which virtually drove the Formby estate into bankruptcy. As a consequence his belongings were auctioned off, attracting crowds intent on buying banjos, ukuleles, bootlaces, shoe polish and even ‘George Formby’s ‘Y’ fronts as souvenirs.

All of which brings us to the brochure below…or the front cover of it at any rate. The brochure itself belongs to Phil Barker (butcher extraordinaire) and details the auction of George Formby’s personal effects at his Beryldene in Fairhaven. (The other Beryldene, incidentally, was…and indeed still is…on Mains Lane in Singleton.)


George was eventually buried at Warrington Cemetery (not Bispham for once) and an estimated 100,000 mourners lined the route as his coffin was driven to the Booth family grave.

Apparently, on this occasion, “It didn’t turn out quite so nice after all, did it mother?”

18 comments:

RVB said...

Quite a hive of formiddable activity is the Wyre, Brian.

Andrew said...

Surprising to me, I know of all three. Can't possibly imagine how I know about Ena Sharples.

Brian Hughes said...

Reuben,

I'm not sure if hive is the right word...although this is a family site, so it's probably the best under the circumstances.

Andrew,

She got around a bit.

Jayne said...

Ena got around quite a bit, through that revolving door, though the trollops running amok in Coronation Street would have her spinning in her grave...if she had one ( see? I was paying attention:P)

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

What revolving door? (Even I'm lost now.)

John said...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Santa John :0)

Brian Hughes said...

Cheers John,

And a Merry Mithras to you too.

Jayne said...

Have another egg nog or 3 and it'll all become clear to you, Brian.
Merry Christmas to you both!

Jayne said...

Oh, and FB is out the back trying out the metal detector Santa dropped off ;)

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

I hope he's filling in his context sheets.

Jayne said...

He's filling in something but it looks more like a grave than a context sheet....

Brian Hughes said...

Perhaps he's burying all his christmas presents from well-meaning but ultimately ignorant aunts and uncles.

Jayne said...

I was actually hoping he was burying the aunts and uncles....

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

I'm sure that somebody, somewhere'll miss 'em...if only the staff at the nursing homes.

Jayne said...

Heaven wouldn't have 'em, Hell was afraid they'd take over, so what makes you think any nursing home would have let them set foot inside the front door?!

Brian Hughes said...

Depends how rich they are...

shirley said...

was reading with interest about Beryledene and George. My father used to visit I nearly did!!I have a picture of George and Beryl with my now aged friend. He was judging the miss Rita Hayworth look-a-like contest at the one time Palce in Blackpool. She is in a bikini rather risque for that era and won. She was 17 and George is overly grinning Beryl is certaninly not. My hubbie cannot believe that it is same woman she is now, have had to overt his eyes. Shirley birthdayed out

Brian Hughes said...

Shirley,

I saw some footage of George and Beryl judging a beauty pageant at the open air baths (now the Sandcastle) in South Shore, once. Again, Beryl wasn't looking too pleased. In fact, if memory serves, she grabbed George by the ear and gave it a good hard jolt. I can't help thinking that if she was really such a jealous old battleaxe though, as his manager she wouldn't have kept landing him the position of judge on these occasions...