Not many people know this but….there is a sad anniversary coming up at the beginning of March.
George Formby, who was born in 1904, died in Preston on Monday, March 6, 1961
Formby was a British comedy actor, singer-songwriter and comedian. At one time he was the UK’s number one film star and one of the highest paid actors. He made the banjo ukulele famous and fans still play his comic songs to this day.
Born in Wigan he never forgot his Northern roots and firmly endeared himself to his audiences with his cheeky Lancashire humour and folksy North of England persona.
Formby has many connections to Preston. He visited several times to take part in and present prizes at the old speedway track in Farringdon Park. He made a film called ‘Turned out nice again’ set in and around the cotton mills that Preston was famous for. Some of the Preston mill workers were extras in the film. He used to live in Lea, Preston, but according to rumour he had to move due to George’s habit of playing his radio loudly during the night! He also liked to buy his cars from Loxhams Garage in Preston
After the death of his wife Beryl, George met Pat Howson who was the daughter of Fred Howson who ran Loxhams Garage, an old friend of his. Pat was a Preston convent school teacher.
George was set to marry Pat and settle down in Preston but he had a heart attack at her parent’s house in Penwortham. He was rushed to Saint Joseph’s Hospital, on Mount Street, Preston.
On his first day in hospital, Pat visited him four times. Although over the next 10 days Formby showed a few signs of recovery, while discussing marriage plans with Pat he relapsed and died on March 6, 1961. He was only 56.
Formby had changed his will in favour of Pat, but she died 10 years later, making sure that all future royalties from George Formby’s records would be donated to charity.
Saint Joseph’s Hospital closed in the late 1980s and currently stands empty awaiting redevelopment.