Dr Derek J Ripley celebrates the great Lancastrians ahead of Lancashire Day
PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 November 2013 | UPDATED: 17:53 19 January 2016
Our resident historian Dr Derek J. Ripley raises the curtain on this year’s prestigious Lancastrian of the Year Awards
There are few more important dates in any proud Lancastrian’s diary than November 27 – Lancashire Day. It commemorates the day in 1295 when Lancashire sent its first representatives to Parliament (and also, coincidentally, the day a young Bruce Forsyth appeared in his first Royal Variety Performance in front of King Edward I). It’s the day when Lancastrians all over the world traditionally pour themselves a cup of Lancashire tea, tuck in to a plate of tripe and settle down to read a copy of Lancashire Life.
It’s also the day when the winner of the annual poll conducted by TMB Books to find The Greatest Lancastrian is announced. Last year’s poll produced some surprising results.
Not only did such famous names as Sir Norman Foster, Sir Thomas Beecham and Vernon Kay not appear in the top ten, but a whole host of people who once enjoyed a brief spell in the limelight failed to get single vote. Forgotten Lancastrians, consigned to the deepest recesses of our memories like a packet of Old English Spangles.
People like musician and founder member of The Beat Boys, George Haribo, man of letters and prolific goalscorer George Irwell and intrepid TV reporter, Ron Gowling.
Back in the late 60s and 70s, Go With Gowling was a fixture on our TV screens. Striding purposefully through the streets of a different Lancashire town every week wearing his trademark white raincoat and pork pie hat, Ron would stop members of the public in the street, doff his hat and ask for their views on the burning issues of the day – the miners’ strike, nuclear disarmament and whether they could tell margarine from butter.
Lancashire folk are notoriously reticent and Gowling often found it something of a struggle to elicit answers.
It was only when he visited Aspull near Wigan that he found shoppers who were happy to be interviewed. As a result, the producers dropped the roadshow format and decided to film there every week. The programme was renamed Ask Aspull and ran for almost 15 years.
Another surprising absentee from the list was Fred Kant, the proprietor of a variety troupe which toured the county at the turn of the 20th century.
The Fred Kant Circus specialised in a unique mixture of comedy and philosophy and many of its performers went on to achieve fame and fortune. Charlie Chutney was a member of a slapstick trio before moving on to a career in the movies whilst neoplatonist ventriloquist Bernard Wrassle went on to become emeritus professor of politics, philosophy and home economics at the University of Wigan.
Last year, the title of Greatest Lancastrian was won by celebrity steeplejack, the late Fred Dibnah but who will top this year’s poll? That’s up to you.
Our county has produced so many great sons and daughters – Richard Arkwright, Emmeline Pankhurst and David Dickinson to name but three - that it won’t be easy to choose a favourite. You can vote for your Greatest Lancastrian at www.forgottenlancashire.co.uk