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Famous Wiganers

Stage & Screen

Wigan's most famous star was George Formby who topped the UK box office between 1936 and 1945. Playing a simple Lancashire lad, George was Britain's highest paid entertainer.

Comic actor Roy Kinnear was born in Mesnes Road, Wigan, in 1934. He made his name on BBC's That Was The Week That Was show and has also starred in many films.

Music hall comedian Frank Randle was born in 1901 and lived at 50 Wigan Road, Aspull. He was a childhood friend of George Formby, who was later to become his chief rival.

Jonathan Dewhurst was a major figure on the Victorian stage, a renowned tragedian and Shakesperian actor, who shared the stage with such greats as Henry Irving and Wilson Barrett.

Wigan actor Colin Bean played the role of Private Sponge in the nationally screened, and much-loved, Dad's Army series.

Sir Ian McKellen, one of the finest actors of his generation, grew up in Parson's Walk, next to Mesnes Park. Wigan's market traders, with their sales banter, inspired Sir Ian to go on to the stage. Recently starred in the blockbuster film Lord of the Rings.

There have been several actors from Wigan that have starred in the ever-popular soap Coronation Street. Fans will remember Georgia Taylor (Toyah Battersby), John Fillingham (Neil Mitchell), Eva Pope (barmaid Tanya Pooley) and Jennifer Moss (Lucille Hewitt).


Born in Mather Lane in 1890, operatic tenor Tom Burke was known as the Lancashire Caruso starring at Covent Garden and opera houses throughout the world.

One of Britain's leading jazz musicians, Georgie Fame, was born plain Clive Powell in Leigh, 1943. He was also a 1960s pop star.

Chart topping rock band The Verve hailed from Wigan, coming together as students at Winstanley College.

Other famous names include singer Limahl, from the 1980s pop group Kajagoogoo. Big band singer Andy Prior, a former vocalist and player with the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra, and Wendy Picton, who is one of the world's leading euphonium players.


Author James Hilton was born in Wilkinson Street, Leigh in 1900. He is famous for two enduringly popular novels - Goodbye Mr Chips and Lost Horizons - which became even more successful films. He won an oscar for his screenplay of Mrs Miniver.

Scriptwriter Brian Finch, the son of a Wigan miner, has countless TV credits to his name - including Heartbeat, Coronation Street, All Creatures Great and Small, Bergerac and Goodnight Mister Tom.

Artist Lawrence Isherwood (1917-1989) courted fame in the 1960s with his controversial paintings of celebrities. The Prince of Wales bought one of his works and The Guardian newspaper described him as "a great and uncompromising artist".

Another highly acclaimed artist, Theodore Major (1908-1999), was a contemporary of L.S. Lowry; the art critic John Berger said of him: "His best canvasses deserve to rate among the best English paintings of our time".

Illustrator and humorist George Worsley Adamson worked extensively for Punch, Private Eye and Nursing Times. He also illustrated many books and provided cartoons for the Daily Telegraph. Although George was born in New York, his mother came from Wigan, and from the age of eight to adulthood George was brought up by his maiden aunts in Upper Dicconson Street, and later Clifton Crescent, Wigan. A number of his pictures are held by Wigan Heritage Service.
Please visit www.georgewadamson.com for more information.


Olympic swimmer June Croft was born in Ashton, 1963. She was British record holder and champion from 1974-84 and in the 1980 Olympics she won silver and bronze medals.

Wigan Rugby has produced many sporting heroes, the two all-time greats, 'Big Jim Sullivan' and Billy Boston OBE were actually born in Cardiff, but their exploits on the field for the club entitle them to be called honorary Wiganers. Boston still holds the club's record for tries - 478.

Golborne boxer Peter Kane was world flyweight champion from 1938-43. He will always be remembered as a fighter who won 127 of his 137 professional fights.

British chess maestro Nigel Short, one of the youngest grandmasters ever, was born in Leigh and grew up in Atherton.


The former National Union of Mineworkers president, Joe Gormley, was born in Ashton-in-Makerfield in 1921. He led the miners in the 1977 national strike, and in the 1983 honours list was made Baron Gormley of Ashton-in-Makerfield.

James Anderton CBE, the son of a miner, was born in Northumberland Street, Wigan in 1932. Up until his retirement in 1991, he was one of the best-known policemen in Britain.