Biggest auction of Wigan star George Formby memorabilia in almost 60 years
Two George Formby banjo ukuleles are among a “hugely important” collection of memorabilia about the star expected to fetch tens of thousands of pounds at auction.
A life-size model of Wigan-born Formby, unseen family photos, personal scrapbook, postcards, film script, a letter reprimanding song writers for “too much sex stuff” and even his prayer book will go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers on Thursday.
Hansons say it is one of the most important collections of memorabilia relating to the star to come up for auction since the Berlydene sale which took place after he died in 1961.
Beryldene at St Annes, was Formby’s last home and its contents were sold.
Jim Spencer, associate director at Hansons, said: “It’s a hugely important private collection which could sell for in excess of £30,000.
It celebrates the life of one of Britain’s most famous 20th century stars. In his heyday, Formby was the UK’s highest paid entertainer. He was renowned for his light-hearted, comical songs, accompanied by the ukulele or banjolele.”
Born in Westminster Street, Wigan in 1904 Formby, an actor, singer-songwriter and comedian, won worldwide fame through films made in the 1930s and ’40s. He was said to embody Lancashire, the working classes and the nation.
He still has fans across the world and Hansons is expecting strong interest in two banjo ukuleles in the sale, each with a guide price of £10,000-£15,000. One was the first ukulele to be played by Formby in film Off the Dole, released in 1935. The instrument has rub marks on the back caused by Formby’s buttons.
Provenance with the instrument reveals it has appeared on several TV shows, including Richard and Judy in 1991.
Formby fans can also bid on his Dallas Model C banjo ukulele. Complete with original case, it bears the words, “Uke in D, Low” written by Formby to identify the correct instrument as he didn’t read music.
It comes with a sealed packet of Formby strings and was originally purchased by George’s brother, Frank, at the Beryldene sale. It’s had a handful of owners since, all documented.
Other memorabilia includes a novelty table lamp modelled as Formby leaning on a lamp post. It bears a plaque engraved with, “George Formby, Leaning on a Lampost (Film Feather Your Nest) recorded 5 September 1937, Regal Zonophone MR2490”. It was given to George by Noel Gay, who wrote Leaning on a Lamp-post, estimate £4,000-£6,000.
A life-size model of the star, estimate £200-£300, and Formby’s personal scrapbook recording his 1947 tour of Australia are also going under the hammer. The scrapbook brims with personal photographs, many unrecorded, estimate £1,000-£1,500.
Also in the sale is his original shooting script from Let George Do It! dated November 7, 1939, estimate £40-£60 and an album of unpublished family photos showing George and wife Beryl at leisure on cruises. This lot also includes postcards, a George Formby funeral card and two British Film Institute movie reels, estimate £40-£60.
Other memorabilia includes 200-300 original assignment letters addressed to Formby including contracts relating to some of his most famous songs, estimate £200-£300. They include a letter from Formby addressed to Gifford and Cliffe, July 12, 1936, which reads “Dear lads, Very many thanks for your song but I am very sorry to have to send it back to you as it is really too blue, you are getting too much on the sex stuff, try and clean it up a bit...”
But perhaps the most touching object in the sale is Formby’s Book of Common Prayer in which he wrote “Yours in faith, George Formby, 1941”.
Mr Spencer said: “We’re proud to be selling this important collection and hope to honour George Formby’s legacy. Hansons has a good track record with Formby finds. In 2017, we sold a George Formby banjolele for £28,500.
“When I collected the objects, I had no space left for the life-size figure of George, so the vendor encouraged me to strap him into passenger seat. It was the only option. So, I had a four-hour drive back home with other motorists thinking I had a pretend twin brother keeping me company!”
View the catalogue at www.hansonslive.co.uk.
A message from the Editorial Director, Gillian Parkinson:
Thank you for reading this story on our website.
But I also have an urgent plea to make of you.
In order for us to continue to provide high quality local news on this free-to-read site and in print, please purchase a copy of our newspaper as well.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on our town centres and many of our valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you buying a copy when you pop out for your essential shop or subscribing for delivery.
Our journalists are highly trained by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards anywhere in the world. Our content is universally trusted - as all independent research proves.
As Baroness Barran said in a House of Lords debate this week on the importance of journalists: "Not only are they a trusted source of facts, but they will have a role to play in rallying communities and getting the message across about how we can keep ourselves and our families safe, and protect our NHS. Undoubtedly, they have a critical role."
But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis. In return we will continue to forensically cover the local news - not only the impact of the virus but all the positive and uplifting news happening in these dark days.
We thank all our readers and advertisers for their understanding and support - and we wish YOU all the best in the coming weeks. Keep safe, and follow the Government advice. Thank you.
HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: You can subscribe for delivery by contacting us at [email protected] or calling us on 0330 4033004 for details of a participating newsagent near you.