If there is one man who most members today might have heard of but know very little about, it has to be George Wilson. Who was George? He is the man who was responsible for posting the letter to The Stage newspaper which requested that anyone interested in the late George Formby should get in touch, with the hope of creating a Society to remember the great man. Therefore the letter that George posted makes him the founder of the Society.The reason for our failure to recognise George Wilson is because basically other than the letter that he placed in The Stage, very little is known about him. He had the magnificent thought in “let’s start a society to remember the name of George Formby” and before the Society had completed its second year, he was gone!
MECHANISM IN PLACE
Many members may think that the Society was born when the people who answered George’s letter travelled to Blackpool for the inaugural meeting in September 1961 but the mechanism was already rolling in the shape of a set of newsletters that went out to all those who answered the call from The Stage ad. I am led to believe that there was in actual fact, four newsletters although unfortunately I have only been able to uncover one of them.During the period when the Stage advert was placed and before Saturday, 16 September 1961 when the founder members met in The Imperial Hotel in Blackpool, the core of the George Formby Society was already in place with a President in the shape of William Logan, a custodian of sound archives in Kevin Daly and a Secretary in George Wilson.
Bill Logan obviously contacted George Wilson after reading George’s letter and they both attended the Beryldene auction which took place between 20 - 22 June 1961 at the Formby residence at 199, Inner Promenade, Fairhaven and in fact Bill Logan purchased various items himself, on behalf of the Society. In those days the fledgling Society had no money so Bill made the auction bids on behalf of the society with the intention of giving the items to the society when they had the money to pay for them.Bill stated that ”George Wilson rang me asking for his help with some kind of memorial. I said he could count on me - and my wallet too.”Bill carries on, “Within a month of George Formby’s untimely passing, work was already under way to gather together every available asset that could be found in the matter of records, music, tape recordings, material items, scrap books, photographs and not least of all – the support of all the other people whose knowledge and help could be enlisted to ensure the success of the cause.
Within two months came the news that “Beryldene” and its contents were to be placed at public auction and whilst a great deal of controversy had raged on this particular subject the Society, whilst neither being responsible for, nor giving its approval to this state of affairs was, never the less, able to take advantage of the development and acquire for its archives a great many items which would not have otherwise been available, and we were indeed proud to have them on display at the Blackpool meeting.”
The very first Vellum magazine was issued in October 1961 with George Wilson listed on page 2 as “Hon Secretary.” When the next issue arrived through member’s letterboxes in November 1962, page 6 carried a statement which read, “It is with regret that the Editor has to advise you of the retirement from office of our erstwhile Secretary, Mr. George A. Wilson. George, unfortunately, finds it impossible to donate as much time to the Society as its work requires and merits, and has been reluctantly compelled to withdraw from his secretarial post because he feels, in conscience, that he can no longer do justice to the work in hand. He will, of course, continue as a full time member of the Society.”George’s name still appears as Hon Secretary in the December 1961 issue and the first issue of 1962 in February but by the next issue in October 1962, our very own John Walley was in place as General Secretary and George was now listed as Southern Secretary.George was still “Southern Secretary” in the January/February 1963 issue but after that, nothing! There was no further reference to who actually managed the Society within the next few issues and by the beginning of 1964 the Society must have been experiencing serious issues as no Vellum magazine appeared at all and the next official issue was June/July 1965.Within the “lost” period, John Walley came to the rescue and single-handedly issued five newsletters which kept the membership notified of all that was happening within the Society.
BACK ON COURSE
By July 1965 the Society was back on course again, and whilst there have been some ups and downs and a few minor crises to test the resolve of the GFS over the years, the Society these days is well established and is now actually older than George Formby!No matter what members in those days might have thought, and although George Wilson was a member for only a very short time, it is without doubt that we all owe the man a massive debt of gratitude for his inspired idea. It also has to be said that we owe an even larger debt of gratitude to people like Bill Logan, Kevin Daly and particularly John Walley for embracing so enthusiastically George Wilson’s dream so much that the Society today is still thriving and still very much in the public eye.
Founder of The GFS
Would anyone interested in taking part in a meeting with reference to forming or arranging something in commemoration of thisoutstanding entertainer please contactGeorge Wilson
Letter to The Stage…
WILF FORREST, GEORGE CHEETHAM,GEORGE WILSON & BILLY HARTLEY
TWO OF THE FOUNDER MEMBERS
Sufficeth to say that the society was officially born and we couldn't wait for the next meeting to be held the following March at the same venue, the Imperial Hotel. Blackpool, on the first anniversary of George's death.Everything was there in March 1962 George' ukes, films, a terrific photo display, lots of enthusiasm, but no George Wilson! No explanation was given for his non-appearance. We had no secretary to run the Society and so Yours Truly was elected - a post I held for the next I I years. In the six months from September 1961 to March 1962, it seems there had been furious rows between Bill and George about the ownership of the ukes.They were legally Bill Logan's, bought and paid for with his own hard-earned money, but George Wilson wanted some guarantee that they would eventually be owned by the Society, with Bill to be paid back when Society funds allowed.No way! They were Bill's! True, he made them all available at each meeting and we played them whenever we wanted. but this was not what George Wilson had envisaged. So the founder of the GFS was never seen again! It was as simple and as stark as that. When I first met George Wilson, I rather liked him. He was a genuine Formby fan. full of enthusiasm but no match for Bill Logan!
John Walley wrote about George in The Vellum in the Spring 2000