Author Topic: Blackpool Famous Residents (1)  (Read 4192 times)

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Sixties_Kid

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Blackpool Famous Residents (1)
« on: September 18, 2012, 04:39:01 PM »
Jimmy Clitheroe was a star of variety, films, radio and television. Born in 1921, his career spanned five decades, from the 1930’s to the 1970’s, and he made his mark in every medium of showbusiness.

James Robinson “Jimmy” Clitheroe was born on 21st December 1921 in the Lancashire town of Clitheroe, and brought up in Blacko, near Nelson, where he lived until 1935.

His thyroid gland was damaged during his birth, and he never grew beyond the age of 11, remaining at the grand height of  of 4ft 3inch.

He had an ambition to join the circus and began taking part in variety shows, including the Sunday school potato pie suppers, and later with the Methodist Church's concert party, which toured East Lancashire.

Skip", as he was known to his friends, was bullied at school, but his fleetness of foot meant he could run around the other boys and nip their arms and legs, hence his other nickname "The Little Nipper".

He played cricket and football and was often carried to school on the shoulders of one of his best friends, Harry Blezzard, who was twice his size, but the same age.

He took part in village concerts and won a talent competition at the Alhambra, in Nelson, with his dancing and piano accordion routine. Later he abandoned this heavy instrument and played the saxophone instead.

Unable to go into the weaving sheds like his parents, as he could not reach the looms, he got a job in a Nelson bakery for a while, but left it as he quipped, "Because I wasn't making enough dough".

He then joined an all-girl dancing troupe called the Winstanley Babes and toured with them, doing acrobatics, dancing, roller skating, and female impressions.

When touring, theatrical landladies always insisted that Jimmy had to sleep downstairs on the couch.

Jimmy  moved into films, firstly with Arthur Lucan (Old Mother Riley) and subsequently with George Formby, Jewel & Warriss and Frank Randle. The two films he made with Randle were for Film Studios (Manchester) Ltd

In the late 1930’s he worked in Variety with comedians Albert Whelan and Albert Burdon, principally in the North of England, and most often in shows presented by John D Roberton or by Jack Taylor. He began working in Blackpool and clocked up an impressive 16 summer seasons in the resort, between 1939 and 1971.

Clitheroe was a regular on the annual Christmas panto scene, his first panto appearance was alongside Two Ton Tessie O’Shea in 1938. His final panto was in 1971. He often played Wishee Washee in Aladdin.

He was the eternal schoolboy. He never grew taller than 4ft 3ins, and for most of his life he could easily pass for an 11-year-old boy, a role he played to the hilt.

He never told people his age, in case it spoiled the illusion, and always performed in schoolboy cap and blazer (even at radio recordings, for the benefit of the studio audience). He fostered the illusion by appearing in publicity stunts for his local Boy Scout troop (dressed as a wolf cub), by living with his mother after his father's death, and by seemingly never having a girlfriend.

It all helped  to maintain his show business career, which was dependant on that illusion, as he almost always played a schoolboy.

In the 1950’s, jimmy began a long and successful stint in radio. His first appearance was on comedian Jimmy James’s show, “The Mayor’s Parlour”, and this was followed by his own series “Call Boy”, a variety show. Next came probably his greatest hit, “The Clitheroe Kid”, written and produced by Jim Casey, himself the son of Jimmy James. It ran for 15 years from 1957 on the Light Programme and Radio 2. It was the BBC’s longest-running situation comedy.

The premise for the show was the exploits of a cheeky schoolboy (Clitheroe), who lives with his grandfather (Peter Sinclair), his mother (Patricia Burke), his sister Susan, who he invariably refers to as Scraggy Neck (Diana Day). He is often up to mischief, being aided and abetted albeit innocently by Susan’s daft boyfriend Alfie (Danny Ross), and is often “at war” with his neighbour Mr Higginbottom (Tony Melody) the father of his “best friend” Higgy. A frequent guest on the programme was Mollie Sugden, who played neighbour Mrs Butterworth.

In the 1960s he broke into television, starring on ITV in ‘That’s My Boy’ and ‘Just Jimmy’ for 5 years from 1963 to 1968. Both shows were made by ABC WeekendTelevision. For the tv series, Mollie Sugden played his mum, and subsequently in his stage shows as well, and Danny Ross became his cousin Alfie.

Off stage, Jimmy lived a very private life, mindful of the need to keep up the illusion of his schoolboy persona, which he relied on for his living, however he was a shrewd business man, owning a race horse, several betting shops and a hotel.

He lived in Bispham, and it was here that he died in June 1973. He was found unconscious on the day of his mother’s funeral. An inquest found that his death was due to an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.
Always look for the positive.....

JeremyPaxham

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Re: Blackpool Famous Residents (1)
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2012, 07:53:01 PM »
Fantastic to read this account of Jimmy Clitheroe, who I remember from my childhood days as a radio star.  Thank you for this.

JohnBurke

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Re: Blackpool Famous Residents (1)
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2012, 10:04:00 PM »
Brilliant Sixties Kid!  Loved reading it.

Sixties_Kid

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Re: Blackpool Famous Residents (1)
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2012, 10:15:37 PM »
My first recollections of him are from the TV series Just Jimmy that used to be screened early evenings on a Saturday.

I only became aware of his radio series later in life.

I did see him live, it was at the Queens Theatre, and must have been around 1970. I seem to remember that Mollie Sugden was with him, but can't remember whether Danny Ross was also on the bill or not!  :unsure:
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BelleVueShrew

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Re: Blackpool Famous Residents (1)
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2012, 12:43:43 AM »
That's a great read Sixties_Kid - Good to have you back with your quality writings.

How are things settling down health wise? 


Proud Salopian (With a part of the heart in Blackpool)

Sixties_Kid

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Re: Blackpool Famous Residents (1)
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2012, 12:40:50 PM »
Thanks Chris, I do enjoy researching and writing about these "Blackpool Greats". I am working on two more profiles, Hilda Baker and Frank Randle. I think it's important as time goes by that these talented people are not forgotten.  :thumbup:

Health wise I am not feeling too bad at the moment, thanks for asking. I am still waiting for a recall to the the hosp to see how successful the treatment was, and to see if any more is requred!
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BelleVueShrew

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Re: Blackpool Famous Residents (1)
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2012, 03:42:57 PM »
Good Luck, and keep us posted  :thumbup1:


Proud Salopian (With a part of the heart in Blackpool)