Lancashire Post photographer who became a football legend

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Former Lancashire Evening Post photographer Gary Talbot has died after remarkable career which saw him take time out to become a professional footballer.

Gary worked for the newspaper for six years operating out of the Post’s former office in Victoria Street, in Blackpool, and capturing some of the biggest stars of the era on camera.

Among those he pictured were Morecambe and Wise during their 1959 summer season show at Blackpool’s Central Pier; Canadian circus artist Carmel Gowan at the Tower Circus and

Dame Thora Hird, in her dressing room at Blackpool Grand Theatre where she was in summer season run of the comedy Happy Days.

But perhaps his most famous photos from his time in Lancashire was a set of images of Hollywood legend Jayne Mansfield on a visit to the resort to turn the illuminations on in September 1959.

He would later recall: “I was the designated photographer to photograph her and there was only me and her on this stand at the top of the tower. Unfortunately for her, the strap on her dress broke. She turned round to me and said ‘have you got a safety pin?’

“I said ‘I’m very sorry, Miss Mansfield, I haven’t’. Then somebody up the other gantry passed one down to me, so I had to pull her strap back and pin her dress!”

Gary was born in 1937 into a newspaper family with father Wally and brother Howard both national press photographers and his career began when he left school and found work on his local paper, the Blackburn Times.

After two years’ National Service with the RAF he got a job with the Lancashire Evening Post in 1957 and worked for the paper for six years before joining the Daily Mail in Manchester.

And it was at the Mail when his career took an unusual turn while playing in a charity football match in Blackpool in summer 1963.

On his side was the newly-appointed Chester City manager Peter Hauser who was impressed by Gary’s goal scoring performance and offered him a trial.

Gary, who had played in the reserves for both Preston North End and Blackburn Rovers, accepted and passed with flying colours leading him to quit the Daily Mail.

He later recalled: “One day I played against some celebrity team and Peter Hauser, who was the manager of Chester, was playing and I scored seven goals against him and we went back to the Imperial Hotel for the reception for the players. He said ‘Why don’t you come down to Chester and have a trial?’

“So I went down to Chester but he’d forgotten I was coming and they were having a match against Tranmere Rovers. He said if anybody gets injured – there were no subs in those days – he says, you can go on. I kept wishing all the way through the match for people to get clobbered, which was wrong, but I just wanted to get on the pitch.

“Anyway, Elfed Morris , who was a great player for Chester, came off injured and I went on. There was only 10 minutes to go and I managed to score two goals so he was ‘Great, will you play for the reserve team?’ I played for the reserve team and scored goals. I was very lucky.

“I was one of those who I didn’t know how I did it sometimes. It was just natural. I scored plenty of goals. My first game I got one, my second game I got two.”

Gary was aged 24 when his football career started and he would go on to become Chester’s record goal scorer - an accolade he held for 30 years - notably scoring one of the FA Cup’s fastest ever hat-tricks, in just under three minutes, against Crewe Alexandra in November 1964.

After hanging up his boots in 1969 Gary he decided to concentrate on his freelance photography business which was going from strength-to-strength.

Working from his studio in Chester his portrait business evolved over the years and saw him travel the world for national newspapers, agencies and magazines taking portraits of the rich and famous – including world leaders, presidents and sheikhs from Africa and the Middle East.

Among the famous names he photographed were Princess Diana, Noel Coward, LS Lowry, Pele, Sir Sean Connery, Sir Michael Parkinson and James Mason. He was also official club photographer for Everton.

Former Evening Post showbiz editor Barry Band worked on many jobs with Gary during his years in Lancashire. He said: “Gary was the smartest Post person ever seen in Blackpool.

“Natty dresser, easy manner, and an ace with plate camera and Rolleiflex. No-one used 35mm in those days.”

Gary died on December 22, 2019 at the Countess of Chester Hospital following a long battle with lung cancer. He was 82.

He leaves a wife Christine, two children, Annabel who lives in Australia and Damian who lives in Dubai, as well as his two grandchildren Matilda, aged 11, and Maisie, aged seven.