Writers and artists
George Orwell was an English novelist and journalist who grew up in Henley-on-Thames in South Oxfordshire. Although his great-grandparents were financially very comfortable, George Orwell’s parents were not as wealthy. This however did not prevent them from providing their son with a private education. Although he felt poorer than the other children in the school his childhood would have been more privileged than some. In 1936 George spent time researching the social conditions in the north of England, where the economy was depressed. He travelled to Manchester, before a friend suggested he should visit Wigan. In Wigan he stayed in lodgings over a tripe (edible offal from the stomachs of different animals) shop. He visited many homes to see how people lived and took detailed notes on their living conditions and wages. He also went down a coal mine. Later, he visited Liverpool, Sheffield and Barnsley before writing an account of his journey in ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’.
Gerard Manley Hopkins an English poet and Jesuit priest was inspired to write ‘At the Wedding March’ whilst in Leigh. He was inspired when assisting the priest performing the wedding of John Fairclough, the 1st Mayor of Leigh, to Maggie Unsworth on 21st October 1879.
James Hilton was born in Leigh in 1900, but spent most of his time in the south of the country before moving to California and working in Hollywood. James is the author of Goodbye, Mr Chips, published in 1934 in the United States. The naming of the teacher in the book, Mr Wilkinson, could perhaps be in reference to the fact he was born in Wilkinson Street in Leigh.
Annie Horniman purchased the Gaiety Theatre on the corner of Peter Street and Mount Street, Manchester in 1908 for £25,000 using inheritance from her Grandfather. Annie was a great advocate of local writers and many from this area wrote scripts to be performed at the theatre. The theatre also provided regular entertainment for the local mill workers and miners of Lancashire.
Ronnie Taylor, born in Leigh in 1921, was a comedy script writer, producer and director, writing sitcoms for David Jason and Cilla Black.
Brian Finch was a script writer born in Wigan. He wrote around 150 episodes for ‘Coronation Street’ and won a BAFTA for his work as a writer in ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’, a drama starring John Thaw.
James Lawrence Isherwood was born in Wigan in 1917. He was an impressionist/expressionist painter known for his Wigan Style, Wigan figure paintings and Wigan street scenes. He was a friend of L. S. Lowry who brought a painting from Isherwood, called ‘Woman with black cat’ for £5. Prince Charles is another well-known collector.