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MARCH 6th  

On this day in history in 1961, died George Formby.

Formby was a jockey and motorcyclist, who became an entertainer and a star of stage and screen.

George Hoy Booth was born on 26th May 1904, in Wigan Lancashire, the son of James Booth, stage name George Formby (Senior), one of the great Edwardian music hall comedians.    

Formby Senior did not want any of his family to enter show business and therefore all his sons and daughters were apprenticed in various other trades. The young Formby was trained as a jockey and rode his first professional race at the age of 10, when he weighed in at three stone, thirteen pounds.  When his father died suddenly in 1921, Formby was encouraged by his mother to pick up his fatherís career, using Formby Seniorís old material.  

Formby took to the stage calling himself George Hoy, Hoy being his motherís maiden name, but the results were discouraging. His mother continued to subsidise his career until in 1924, when he married dancer, Beryl Ingham, who took over the management of his career and, by all contemporary accounts, dominated his personal life. Formby bought a ukulele from a colleague, intending to use it for personal recreation, but after a wager that he dare not use it in his act, played it at the Barnsley Alhambra and brought the house down.  

From that moment, Formbyís career moved rapidly forward. He endeared himself to audiences with his mischievous humour and his unsophisticated Lancashire personality. He played the simple accident prone buffoon to perfection, singing songs loaded with double entendre, accompanied by ukulele music in a syncopated style.  

In 1934, Formby was offered the lead in a talking picture, Boots, Boots, which was so successful that he obtained a contract  for a further 11 pictures. Between 1934 and 1945, Formby was one of the top British box office attractions of the stage and screen. He built up a formidable collection of motor cars and motor cycles, and became proficient in the art of motorcycling. In the film No Limit, set in the Isle of Man T T races, Formby took the part of a race competitor and did the riding himself, without the aid of a stuntman.  

During the Second World War, Formby entertained troops with ENSA, touring Europe and North Africa. In 1946, he was awarded the OBE for his contribution to the war effort and, strangely, received the Stalin Prize from the Soviet Union.

In 1960, Formbyís wife Beryl died of leukaemia and, almost immediately, he planned a second marriage but succumbed to a heart attack and died in Blackpool Victoria Hospital on 6th March 1961. At his funeral, an estimated 100,000 mourners lined the route to the graveside. Formby is buried in Warrington Cemetery with his father and other members of the Booth family. [Warrington Cemetery, Manchester Road, Warrington, Lancashire, WA1 3BG, plot reference RC SEC B 34]

Recommended reading. 

Bret, David.  George Formby: A Troubled Genius. 

Buy it here at Amazon

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