Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane

IT has always seemed odd that whilst George Orwell was a prolific broadcaster at the BBC, not one recording of his voice exists anywhere in the world.

And it seems that when our dear old George Formby suffered a similar dignity – when the tape of his Desert Island Discs was “wiped” or “lost” by the famous BBC Archive.

But at least there’s some written information about the day George picked his favourites on the BBC’s longest running show, which your ever-inquisitive Wigan World writer tunes into at 11.15 every Sunday morning.

After the Archers, of course. Oh I think I’m getting old.

George chose his favourite pieces of music on the Desert Island Discs broadcast on November 20, 1951, when Roy Plomley coaxed some interesting facts out of the entertainer born at 3 Westminster Street in Wigan.

The star with the gap in his teeth told listeners: “Mi mother didn’t want me to go on stage and said ‘Our George is going to have a proper career.’

“It was soon after dad died that I went into a music hall one evening and heard a comic using the old man’s gags. I said to myself ,‘If anyone is entitled to use these gags, it’s me.”

George told how he went and bought a couple of his father’s records and later made his first professional debut at Earlestown Hippodrome.

He said: “It wasn’t easy at first I can tell you. I had to learn the whole business from the start. I decided not to perform under my real name of Formby in case I was a flop. I wasn’t going to drag my dad’s name into it. Thankfully things turned out well.”

At the end of the show George was asked which special item he’d take to the desert island. He said: “The Uke I used to serenade my wife Beryl with.” And the item he would most miss?

He said:“A pot of tea. Not having cups of tea would really get me down. In fact being cast on the island would be no fun at all because I can’t cook. I couldn’t kill my food and I don’t like fruit.”

George’s chosen records were:

Never Trust a Woman (Phil Harris).

Standing on a the Corner of the Street (George Formby Senior)

MacNamara’s Band (Bing Crosby).

Hear my Song (Joseph Locke)

Be Like the Kettle and Sing (Very Lynn).

Shot Gun Boogie (Tennessee Ernie Ford).

Londonderry Air.

The Kerry Dance (John McCormick).

WHERE I lived in Hindley all those years ago, I was surrounded by relatives who lived half a street away.

We were one big family. Aunties and uncles, and cousins and nephews and nieces. And yes, cups of sugar were borrowed.

The years have gone by and last Friday I was more than sad to say a final farewell to my cousin Jack Bookfield.

He was 81 and as the funeral services took its course at Howe Bridge Crematorium, I thought back six decades when “Our Jack” – the quiet one – was a big part of my life.

Jack was a gentle giant who never in all his years harmed a fly. A miner, he took quiet pleasure in a few pints in the Ellesmere Inn at the weekend.

I slept beside him as an eight year when there was illness at home. Went to his 21st birthday party and his wedding. And recall how one bonfire night he bought me fireworks because my spending money had gone.

When I was three months old, he took me out in my pram for “a few minutes.” Time must have meant little because he pushed me the whole way through Borsdane Wood, returning after four hours to a sick-with-worry family.

Every year he came to me at No 5 – and I would put a birthday memories notice in this newspaper for his beloved wife Joan who died some years ago. They married in 1959.

Jack’s pleasures in life were simple. Family and fishing. And a pint. If they were all like “Our Jack” the world would be a better place.

RON Tickle was an all-round good fella and his death just before Christmas in 2008 was keenly felt.

In his lifetime, Ron had seen many changes in his native Wigan – and quietly and without a fuss, he took great delight in penning a series of monologues (poems to me and you).

He was often invited to recite his works at charity events and there was always the inevitable question: “Are you going to publish them?”

The poems went under the appropriate heading of “Tickle Tattle”. Time went by and the little treasures in words remained on the shelf. He simply didn’t get round to converting his gems into a book.

Years ago Ron, a former popular teacher at Wigan St Mary’s Church on Standishgate, wrote a foreword to the proposed book, dedicated to his grown up children Alison and Vincent, in which he said: “There’s not much to laugh about these days, so I hope my monologues will raise a few smiles.”

Now, at last, “Tickle Tattle” a book of Ron’s monologues is a reality and Wigan World friend Margaret Finch (wife of the late TV writer Brian) was kind enough to pick up a copy at Wigan’s Lourdes Shop on Wigan Lane.

Ron’s wife Joan said: “This book is published as a tribute to my husband.” And his daughter, Dr Alison Tickle, said: “Some of the monologues were only recently discovered.”

The pencil illustrations are by his grandchildren Hannah, aged 12, and Joseph, 10, assisted by dad Vince.