Auntie Doris’s They Died Too Young #15: George Formby Senior Died 8th February 1921 aged 45

GeorgeI’m not talking about the George Formby who used to play the ukulele in all those films and sing about window cleaners and little sticks of Blackpool rock. I’m on about his dad. Old George, who was also a big comedy star, in the Music Halls. He laughed in the face of death. Of course, being dead is nothing to worry about. I can tell you that from experience. I’ve been dead for years, and its lovely. I never had nearly as much fun when I was alive as I do now. But death is obviously a worry. It can be uncomfortable, it can hurt, it can be frightening. Old George must have been frightened. He had Tubercolosis, and Bronchitis, and Consumption. He even had that Flu that they all died of in 1918. His lungs were in tatters, and towards the end he had to have his wife standing just off stage with an oxygen mask. But what did he do? He made a ruddy joke out of it, challenging the audience to cough louder than he could. “I’m coughing well tonight!” He would say. “I’ll give five bob to any man here who can bring up a bigger lump than that!” The poor beggar didn’t even smoke. He couldn’t suck hard enough to get the goodness out. Not like our Madge. She could suck the goodness out of a ruddy cricket stump. She used to have a party piece where she finished off a John Player in four drags, right down to the filter. Bartlett the greengrocer used to get particularly excited about that one, I think he arranged for her to do a few private demonstrations round the back of his shop. Anyway, if old George sucked in too hard, he was in danger of disturbing the delicate balance of his innards and coughing the ruddy lot up. But that didn’t stop him touring up and down the country and giving a royal command performance in front of King George V and Queen Margaret into the bargain. I can’t imagine that ruddy John Bishop or any of these new fangled fellers doing that if they had so much as a sore throat. It all caught up with him one cold February evening in 1921. He coughed his guts up on stage in a pantomime at the Newcastle Empire, and within a week he was dead. His name lives on these days in the celebrated George Formby Senior defence, employed by underwear drawer loving men of a certain age. “I’m sorry love, I had a coughing fit, and I opened your drawer to try and find a handkerchief. Unfortunately I coughed up something nasty all over the contents” Here on the other side, George Formby Senior and George Formby Junior are a tremendous double act and still pack them in whenever they put on a show. Old George still even does a few of his old coughing and spluttering routines, even though there is nothing wrong with him, since he was presented with a brand spanking new pair of spiritual lungs on arrival. But if you have a good routine worked out, why waste it?

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