Tributes to WLT legend

Leonard Arkwright shortly before he died
Leonard Arkwright shortly before he died

A FOUNDER of Wigan Little Theatre has died - just days before his 98th birthday.

Leonard Arkwright, who was born in Hindley, passed away on April 6, at Bangor Community Hospital, in North Wales.

It is believed he was the last surviving original member of Wigan Little Theatre Group, which first came into existence in 1943, with a formal committee establishing a year later.

He took on a large variety of acting roles, his most prominent being Shakespearean ones, namely Othello and Bottom.

It was believed he had been offered some television roles, which he declined to concentrate on his role as a teacher.

The former Hindley and Abram Grammar School pupil trained at Bangor Normal College, and spent his 37-year teaching career at Rose Bridge High’s English department.

Teaching was put on hold while he served in the Navy, first on North Sea patrols, where he was involved in the early days of Radar, and later in a land-based role, in charge of transport, rising to the rank of lieutenant.

Leonard, who had two daughters, Jane, 60, and Linda, who died three years ago aged 62, retired in 1974 due to angina problems and moved to Conwy 10 years later, where he remained with his wife, Ann, 86, also known as Nan.

Jane said: “My dad was passionate about the arts and languages and that is how I will always think of him.

“He used to go to a lot of concerts and I used to go with him.

“An interest kindled during his own school days at Hindley, which blossomed after the war, we believe he was last surviving founder member of the Wigan Little Theatre Group, a list of other founding members included, Fred Fairclough, Fred Kay, Joe Lee, Dacre Brown, Bill Price, Ken Booth, Arthur Latham and Mrs Round.

“He was well informed and knowledgable and that is what we will miss the most about him.

“We have had lots of nice e-mails from people who he had taught about how he had inspired them, which is very touching.”