Wigan and its surrounding towns have provided more than their fair share of native talent and national celebrities. Wigan born entertainers like actor and singer George Formby, comic actor Roy Kinnear, Radio Comedian Ted Ray, Music Hall Comedian Frank Randle, Classic Actor Sir Ian McKellen, Jazz Singer Georgie Fame, Composer Peter Maxwell Davies are among the many who have enthralled audiences on film, on television, on radio and in the theatre throughout the 20th century. In literary terms there have been several notable talents. The author James Hilton was born at Wilkinson Street in Leigh in 1900 – he was made famous by three novels : “Goodbye Mr Chips”, “Lost Horizons” and “Shangrila” .
George Formby, Georgie Fame, Peter Maxwell Davies, Sir Ian McKellen and Joe Gormley
The writer Brian Finch, son of a Wigan coal miner, is a celebrated television writer, who still lives in Wigan and has written for numerous TV series and scripts, including “All Creatures Great & Small”, “Coronation Street”, “Bergerac”, “Juliet Bravo” and “Murphy’s Mob” . Newspaper Columnist Lynda Lee Potter was born and grew up in Leigh. The 19th Century religious poet Gerard Manley Hopkins lived for a while at St Joseph’s, Bedford in 1879. The painter Lawrence Isherwood, another Wigan artist, and living in the town until his death in 1989, was described as “one of Europe’s leading post-Impressionist painters”. Public figures such as Lord Joe Gormley, former President of the National Union of Mineworkers was born in Ashton-in-Makerfield in 1921. It was he who led the miners in their strike of 1977, and was created Baron Gormley of Ashton-in-Makerfield in 1983. The former controversial Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, James Anderton was born in Northumberland Street in Wigan in 1932. He was to make the Manchester Constabulary one of Britain’s biggest police forces, prior to his retirement in 1991. In 1848 Sir Thomas Beecham lived in Wigan, and was employed as an odd job man at a local chemists. It was in Wigan that he manufactured his legendary Beecham’s Powders and Beecham’s Pills – used by millions for the relief of colds and flu symptoms ever since. Michael Marks, of Marks & Spencer, moved his warehouse to Wigan in 1892 and formed a partnership with Thomas Spencer in the town in 1894. Wigan remained the company’s headquarters for many years following. Wigan has also had its fair share of sporting champions. The Olympic Swimmer, June Croft, born in Ashton in 1963. Peter Kane, a Golborne man, achieved lasting fame as World Flyweight Boxing Champion from 1938-1943.