Described as the epitome of an Edwardian gentleman, actor Ronald Fraser was one of the most familiar faces on film and TV in the 1960s and 70s.
His plummy accent and unusual appearance made him the ideal choice to play the gloriously named Basil ‘Badger’ Allenby-Johnson in the TV series The Misfit.
Freshly returned from British colonial life in Malaya, Basil was mystified by the new permissive society. But he exuded tolerance, loyalty and fortitude – as well as constantly maintaining a stiff upper lip!
Ronald Fraser was born in Ashton-under-Lyne in April 1930 – and is just one of many actors and entertainers from the metropolitan borough of Tameside.
The list includes music hall idol George Formby Snr, whose son George found international fame singing with his ukulele, and Coronation Street stars Dawn Acton, Amanda Barrie, Sean Wilson and Brooke Vincent.
Porridge actor Brian Wilde was born in Tameside along with blues musician Victor Brox and comedienne Sunny Rogers, who worked extensively with Frankie Howerd.
Other famous names include television presenter and model Melanie Sykes, actor Tony Gardner and Kathy Staff, who played Nora Batty to perfection on Last of the Summer Wine.
George Formby Snr, born in Ashton in October 1875, became one of the greatest music hall performers of the early 20th century.
He rather oddly used a bronchial cough during his act which earned him the nickname ‘The Wigan Nightingale’. Many of his characters, songs and sketches were based on Lancashire stereotypes.
It’s said that Formby’s portrayal of a tramp dressed in once grand clothes, complete with hat and cane, inspired Charlie Chaplin.
Born in Dukinfield in July 1928, actress Kathy Staff will perhaps be best remembered for playing the inimitable Nora Batty on the BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine from the pilot episode in 1973 until 2008.
Batty’s forbidding countenance, wrinkled stockings and permanent hair curlers were objects of desire for fellow character Compo portrayed by Bill Owen. She truly was a battle-axe with a heart of gold.
Staff also played Doris Luke in the ATV series Crossroads as well as Vera Hopkins in the long-running Granada soap Coronation Street.
Appearing alongside Staff in Last of the Summer Wine was Ashton-born actor Brian Wilde, who portrayed world-weary Walter ‘Foggy’ Dewhurst from 1976 to 1985 and again from 1990 to 1996.
He also played long-suffering prison warden Mr Barrowclough in the sitcom Porridge, often at the wrong end of schemes concocted by Ronnie Barker as inmate Norman Stanley Fletcher and Richard Beckinsale as Lennie Godber.
Tameside has all but cornered the market when it comes to producing characters for another hugely popular TV soap – Coronation Street.
Amanda Barrie, born in Ashton, first played caterer Alma Sedgewick on the Street in 1981. Sedgewick was famously involved in a love triangle with former teacher Ken Barlow (William Roache) and factory owner Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs).
Barrie started her show business career by dancing at London’s Windsor Club with Danny La Rue and Barbara Windsor in the early 1960s.
She starred in two Carry On movies – Carry on Cabby in 1963 and Carry On Cleo in 1964 where she played the title role of Cleopatra. Sid James was Mark Antony.
Barrie also appeared in a number of TV shows in the 1960s and 70s. Our photo shows her rehearsing for the ATV series It’s Tarbuck, with comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, in November 1964.
Sean Wilson, also born in Ashton, portrayed Martin Platt on the Street from 1985 to 2005. His character was the father of current regular David Platt (Jack P. Shepherd).
Ashton actress Dawn Acton played the young Tracy Barlow for 11 years from 1988 to 1989. She was only 11 when she started on the Street. Tracy is now portrayed by Salford actress Kate Ford.
Audenshaw-born Brooke Vincent is the third actress to play Sophie Webster on the Street, replacing Emma Woodward who left in 2003. Vincent was a contestant on Dancing on Ice and has appeared on Soapstar Superstar.
One of the most recent Coronation Street storylines – a thwarted plan to redevelop half the street – involved Ashton actress Sue Devaney. She plays Debbie Webster, the sister of garage proprietor Kevin.
Finally, any list of entertainment stars from Tameside must include Ashton-born presenter and model Melanie Sykes. She hosted Today with Des and Mel with Des O’Connor and Let’s Do Lunch with chef Gino D’Acampo.
Mancunians will long remember her for being the face of the Boddington’s Bitter in the 1990s.
*Clive Hardy’s latest book, The Home Front – Britain 1939-45, published by iNostalgia Ltd, is now on the sale at £14.99 including UK postage and packing.
Just go to inostalgia.co.uk/shop to order your book or call the order hotline on 01928 503777.