The Eight Lancashire Lads was a young male dance troupe formed in Wigan by Bill Cawley and J.W. (William) Jackson in the late 19th century. The group performed in music halls across the country until the early 20th century. As their success grew they recruited further members including Charlie Chaplin who began dancing with the group when he was just 10 years old.
George Formby was born in Westminster Street, Leigh in 1904. He later moved to Atherton Road in Hindley. Whilst living in Hindley George became an apprentice Jockey. However 3 months after his father’s death, George followed in his father’s footsteps as a comedian on the stage, at first using his father’s material. It was not until he took up playing the ukulele and until his wife Beryl began to manage him that his career began to take off. George became famous for his Lancashire humour and his unique musical style, becoming the top comedian in British cinema during the 1930s. He died from a heart attack in 1961.
Jonathan Dewhurst was born in 1837 in Lowton and was a renowned Shakespearian actor during the late 19th century. Before becoming an actor, Jonathan worked at the Leigh Chronicle and then as a grocer’s assistant. His passion however was theatre and he specialised in Shakespearian plays and melodramas of the time, aiming to interest as many people as possible from those living in Lancashire mill-towns to more regular theatre goers in London. Jonathan also ran the Theatre Royal in Leigh for 18 years.
Clive Powell, more famously known as Georgie Fame, was a rhythm and blues and jazz singer born in Leigh in 1943. After leaving school at 15, Georgie took up work as an apprentice cotton weaver in a local mill. His spare time was spent playing the piano and performing in pubs. In 1959 he was offered a full-time job playing piano and left Leigh for London. This was the start of a 40 year career in which he has recorded over 20 albums and 14 hit singles.
The band ‘The Verve’ was formed in Wigan in 1989 by band members Richard Ashcroft, Nick McCabe, Simon Jones and Peter Salisbury who met at Winstanley Sixth Form College. Of the original members just Richard Ashcroft, the lead singer, was actually from Wigan. Some of the band’s achievements include their 1997 album Urban Hymms being one of the best-selling albums in UK chart history and winning two Brit awards in 1998.
Although born in Salford, composer Peter Maxwell Davies was educated at Leigh Boys' Grammar School. He then went on to study at the University of Manchester and the Royal College of Music. Peter was knighted in 1987 and appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 2004.
Thomas Burke was an operatic tenor born in Leigh in 1890. His father had settled in Leigh from Ireland and found a job as a mining labourer. Thomas grew up in a very poor household with 8 brothers and sisters. His love of signing and music however was encouraged by his family and his mum and dad allowed him to follow his dream of becoming an opera singer. When he was 13 years old and therefore old enough to work full time he found a job in a local silk mill later taking a job in a local coal mine. With his full-time wage coming into the household, his family helped him to buy a piano by pawning the sewing machine and making weekly payments. His passion led him to join the Leigh Borough Brass Band and also to walk to Blackpool to watch ‘The Great Caruso’ in concert. By the age of 29 Thomas began a successful music career, which lasted around 12 years. He could not handle the fame and loathed the wealthy people who would watch him because he still felt angry at the poverty he experienced growing up.
Pete Shelley was born Peter Campbell McNeish in Leigh in 1955. His mother was a mill worker and his father worked at the Astley Green Colliery. He formed the Buzzocks in 1975 with friend Howard Devato who he met at Bolton Institute of Technology (now the University of Bolton). The band had a career lasting 6 years releasing songs such as ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)’. Shelley also went on to have a solo career during the 1980s.