LAST week saw Todmorden Carnival take place at the town’s Centre Vale Park, with the sunny weather bringing out the crowds, and next week there is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to look forward to.
And once some early cloud had disappeared, it shone on May 31, 1929 too, when another queen was being crowned - and by a future musical star - and the national press took an interest.
The occasion was the town’s third annual Rose Queen Festival, to benefit the St John Ambulance Brigade, which included a procession which wound its way up Halifax Road and around Fielden Square before returning along Burnley Road to Centre Vale Park, where the highlight was the crowning of the Rose Queen, Mary Richards, by 12-year-old Geoffrey Love, as local author Bill Birch explains in this copyrighted extract from his forthcoming magnum opus “A LOVE AFFAIR WITH MUSIC - the life and times of musician, bandleader and showbusiness personality GEOFF LOVE.”
Geoff is one of Todmorden’s most famous musical sons and who never forgot his home town, appearing frequently with Todmorden Old Brass Band, to which he gave special arrangements of music.
He worked with a string of top-selling artists worldwide and for many years had a very high media profile, for example starring alongside Max Bygraves in Singalongamax and also appearing in the long-running and top-rated television show Name That Tune.
Geoff recorded a slew of best-selling albums of his own, many under the name Manuel and his Music Of The Mountains. On television he was a subject of the This Is Your Life programme.
Geoff was highly regarded by everyone whose path he crossed, be they top recording stars like Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Connie Francis and Johnny Mathis, to young musicians given guidance and encouragement by him at the start of their careers.
By the time he died in July, 1991, he was no stranger to a high media profile but his first appearance in a a national publication was likely this one, as Bill writes in the extract from his book.
“On May 31, 1929, it was announced that Mary Richards, of St Mary’s Church, Todmorden, and its Sunday School, had been chosen as the year’s Rose Queen for the following weekend’s third annual St John Ambulance Brigade two hour town parade.
“With a spectacular procession of acrobats, conjurers, ventriloquists, sideshows and the like, its highlight was the ‘Queen’s’ crowning in Centre Vale Park by 12-year-old Geoffrey Love, attired in kilt and tartan.
“The previous two Rose Queen Festivals had attracted thousands to the pictureqsque setting so it was not surprising to see a number of journalists and photographers covering the occasion with young “Prince” Geoffrey’s picture appearing in the next morning’s national Sunday Dispatch along with the Rose Queen and her attendants.
“The pretty Queen of May later trained as a nurse becoming a leading radiographer at North Manchester Hospital.
“The youngest of five children, she had two brothers and two sisters. Married in March, 1939, she died in Cornwall in 1975 at the age of 58. She had no children, but adopted two.”