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
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.
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.
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.
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.