Birthday tribute planned for iconic Wigan-born songwriter

A hometown commemoration is being planned for a well-known musical export who was proud of his borough roots.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 3:21 pm
Updated Saturday, 10th July 2021, 3:28 pm
Barry Mason MBE
Barry Mason MBE

Wigan Council will commemorate the life and achievements of Barry Mason MBE, best known for co-penning Sir Tom Jones’ smash hit Delilah, on Monday, the day he would have turned 86.

The musician, who was born on Spencer Road and brought up in Coppull, died in April, prompting an outpouring of tributes and memories from some of the biggest names in showbiz.

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A video about him created by the grandson of his partner Vanessa Martin will also be on display for residents to watch at The Fire Within HQ in The Galleries.

The local authority is also looking at more long-term ways to honour Barry, with options being explored for installing a blue plaque to him.

A letter signed by an all-star list of the great and good was sent to the local authority calling for Barry to be permanently honoured in his hometown shortly after his death.

Wigan Music Service is also working on a project to take into schools to raise awareness of Barry’s life and achievements, which it is hoped will begin in the new academic year.

Coun Chris Ready, portfolio holder for communities and culture at Wigan Council, said: “Barry Mason’s career achievements speak for themselves, millions will have heard and be able to sing along to his amazing back catalogue of songs but may not be aware of the link with Wigan.

“Recognising the cultural influence this borough has had on the wider world is an important aspect of our arts and culture manifesto The Fire Within.

“Through the Wigan Music Service project highlighting Barry’s career we can hopefully inspire the next generation of song-writing talent.

“We will continue to explore our options for a permanent tribute and the option of installing a blue plaque at a location within the borough.”

The majority of Barry’s best-known work was penned in collaboration with Les Reed.

Some of his hits included The Last Waltz and Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes).

Working in a golden age of British pop music, his songs were performed by the likes of Rod Stewart, Engelbert Humperdinck, Elvis Presley and The Drifters.

He picked up no fewer than five prestigious Ivor Novello Awards during his career.

An extraordinary list of stars from the worlds of the arts and media called on Wigan Council to create a permanent memorial to Barry in the town in May.

Signatories included members of bands including Spandau Ballet, 10CC, The Shadows and The Moody Blues as well as film-makers, artists and journalists.

The letter was signed by members of The Society Of Distinguished Songwriters and The Useless Information Society, two organisations to which Barry belonged.

It called him "one of the foremost British songwriters of his generation".

Former journalist Charles Garside, who was a friend of Barry and one of the signatories of the letter, said: “The council has been very good in thinking of ways of doing this in a Covid-secure way.

"We think the idea of doing something in education is fantastic because Barry’s story is inspirational. It is a story of: 'If at first you don't succeed then keep on trying'.

"This is a man who wrote an amazing catalogue of songs, and the tributes in the letter showed what his fellow songwriters think of him.

“We are also pleased the video is being shown at The Fire Within close to Believe Square, where today’s stars are recognised.”

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