CHARLES GRAHAM - Local heroes miss out on tributes

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HONOURING past heroes is going to be a tad trickier in the foreseeable future after recession-hit English Heritage announced it won’t be able to afford any new commemorative blue plaques.

Wigan has had a couple for a good while now: to George Formby on that high wall opposite Tesco; and one to Frank Randle which is fixed forlornly to the derelict former St John the Baptist Primary School in New Springs.

Other folk with celebrity connections to Wigan have been recognised in other ways, including Puccini’s favourite operatic tenor, Leigh-born Tom Burke, who at least has a Wetherspoon’s pub named after him. But for some there is little in the way of permanent memorials.

Topping my list of unsung Wigan entertainers deserving a plaque are two comedians.

First there’s TV, radio and stage legend Ted Ray (born Charlie Olden) who was definitely born in Wigan but I have received conflicting reports about exactly where. One person told me he was born in a terraced house off Frog Lane and another was equally adamant that he spent the first few months of his life in the Abbey Lakes pub (now the Rajgate Indian restaurant at Orrell.

The other would be that wonderful comic character actor Roy Kinnear who suffered a tragically early death after falling from a horse during filming. He was born, I am told, at 55 Mesnes Road, Wigan. Given the current climate it could be a while before either of these folk get their dues.

But at least one cultural wrong has been righted before the blue plaque drawbridge was pulled up - and that was one to acclaimed Leigh author James Hilton. Anyone who can claim writing the novel Goodbye Mr Chips and the Oscar-winning screenplay for Mrs Minniver deserves a metal plate if nothing else.

I’m sure many of you have plenty of other candidates who merit a plaque once times are affluent enough for English Heritage to re-introduce them.