It was 60 years ago today that one of Lytham St. Anne’s most famous residents passed away. Aged just 56, George Formby died of a heart attack on 6th March, 1961. His death occurred just two days before his upcoming marriage to his fiancée, a 36 year old teacher, Pat Howson and a honeymoon cruise to the West Indies. George’s first wife, Beryl, who gave her name to their Fairhaven family home ‘Beryldene’ (pictured), died on Christmas Day in 1960.
George Hoy Booth was born in Wigan in 1904 and adopted his father’s stage name of George Formby. His dad had been a member of a musical hall troupe and had performed with Charlie Chaplin. George left school at the age of seven and was unable to read or write. He became a stable boy and an apprentice jockey before, following his dad’s death, turning to performing, making his professional debut in 1921.
It was when he took up playing the ukulele in 1924 that his career took off. Even the Royal Family loved George’s ukulele music, and the Windsors invited George to present private performances at Buckingham Palace. When the BBC banned his saucy song, ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’ George reminded them that it was a favourite of Queen Mary. He was awarded an OBE in 1946.
His songs are famous for their many double-entendres. For example, in his song ‘Andy the Handyman’ he sang,
‘ A girl gave me a gold watch.
I said it’s rather light
It’s got no works inside it
Now surely that’s not right
She said, Now don’t you worry
I’ll give you the works tonight!’
George went on to make twenty two movies and became internationally famous. He released an amazing 230 records and helped write over 300 songs. He became Britain’s highest paid entertainer.
Following his death, his possessions were publicly auctioned in a large marquee set up in the grounds of George’s home at 199 Inner Promenade, Fairhaven. There were 1007 lots in the auction – which took three days to complete. Crowds queued for hours to get in. The catalogue can be seen on the official George Formby Society website: here: https://www.georgeformby.co.uk/auction.htm
In a will made a few days before he died George Formby left most of fortune to his fiancée Patricia Howson. He left nothing to his family. After six years of legal wrangling an out-of-court settlement was reached which gave £5,000 to George Formby’s mother and £2,000 each to his three sisters. In 1964 Patricia Howson auctioned some of the jewellery her fiancé had given her saying she needed the money to pay her legal bills. Ms Howson died in 1971 leaving just £20,000 in her will.