march 6, 1961
Sobbing crowds at George’s final journey
The 6th March 1961 is a date that is lodged in every genuine Formby fan's mind. It is the fateful date on which George passed out of this world leaving behind him countless fans who still keep his name alive through the George Formby Society (which came in to existence just 6 months later in September 1961). Although George was still in hospital supposedly recovering from his last heart attack, it was generally thought that he was on the mend and looking forward to the much talked about forthcoming wedding to his new fiancée, Pat Howson. It was late in the afternoon on a Monday and Pat was sitting with George at his hospital bedside when she noticed a change in his condition and summoned a nurse. George had suffered a final heart attack and minutes later was dead

The Ray Seaton/Alan Randall book “George Formby – A Biography”

describes the day of the funeral:

Thousands of people jammed the streets for two miles when the funeral cortege passed from a chapel of rest to St Charles’ Roman Catholic Church, Liverpool, where a Requiem Mass was celebrated by Mgr Francis Chaloner. Pat, in a light grey suit, white blouse and black hat, was on the verge of collapse when she arrived by tz`axi with her parents and a solicitor, but remained calm. The cortege was headed by a hearse piled with wreaths and sprays. The oak coffin, covered with more flowers, was in a second hearse. A cross of lilies, tulips and carnations was from Gracie Fields and her husband, Boris. George’s mother, aged 82, was assisted into the church by her sons, Frank and Edward. After the mass, the twelve-car funeral procession made its way past sobbing crowds who lined the streets and roadsides for twenty miles, to Warrington. Here the cortege halted alongside the grave of George Formby Snr. Beneath a sculptured portrait of his father, the famous son was laid to rest. And above the grave was placed a 4-ft cross of deep red roses from the schoolteacher who was to have been his bride. Her written message was ‘Now and always’. Carried to the grave-side with the chief mourners, was George’s Lakeland terrier, Willy Waterbucket, a constant companion for sixteen years. The undertaker was a friend, Bruce Williams, who as Eddie Latta had written many of his hit songs, such as ‘Grandad’s Flannelette Nightshirt’, ‘The Home Guard’, ‘Mr Wu’s an Air Raid Warden now’ and ‘Auntie Maggie’s Remedy’. Tributes filled the columns in national and provincial newspapers. In Birmingham the Rev. George Potts, guide and companion for him in Normandy after the invasion, wrote in the Evening Dispatch: ‘Wherever George went, in the body or on the air, there was laughter. God knows our sad world needs comedians and God sent us one in George… He gave to us in full measure the gifts God had given to him. I like to think that he has turned up now, uke in hand, creeping up to the “Gold Bar of Heaven” as he crept up to those slit trenches in 1944, that he has simply said “Hello” and that the reply has come rapturously back, “Good God, it’s George Formby!’ The people who remember him—and memories of George Formby remain vivid—think of the simple things, the incidentals, the small parts that added up to the whole man. Tommy Trinder remembers going to Beryldene and being shown the newly decorated Chinese room. Chinese writing ran down the sides of the fireplace. ‘What’s it say?’ he asked. In earnest, George replied, ‘This side says “Beryl” and that side says “George”.’ ‘Who did it?’ said Tommy. ‘Ooh, some local builder,’ was George’s answer. Donald Crombie, a magician, who appeared with him in a charity show in Wolverhampton, remembers his love of Flash Gordon, Superman and other serials. ‘In any town where he was appearing he’d arrange with a local cinema to have the latest serial episode run through for him late at night.’ Bert Lawty, of the George Formby Society, recalled George leaving Liverpool on a health cruise, throwing one ukulele into the River Mersey and giving another to the purser to be locked up until his return. tOur George was a simple man with a gift he never tried to explain or analyse. As The Times saw him in its obituary, he was the amateur of the old smoking concert platform turned into a music-hall professional of genius. He added nothing to the amateur’s range, only perfected his technique. ‘He sang with the same broad smile the same sort of broad little songs which the amateur used to effect, told the same broad tales; but his pointing of those songs was as artlessly exact as the rhythm of his ukulele playing was flawless.’