Portraits tell part of town’s story

A portrait of MP John Fielden takes pride of place
A portrait of MP John Fielden takes pride of place

VISITORS to Wetherspoon’s White Hart pub in Todmorden may come away from their drink or meal knowing more about the town than they thought.

Since the pub, at the heart of Todmorden in White Hart Fold, re-opened after extensive renovation work last year undoubted focal points are the number of framed, large-sized murals dedicated to parts of the town’s history, or some of its most famous sons and daughters.

Prof. Garville Tuner porter at teh Weatherspoon White Hart, Todrmorden.

Prof. Garville Tuner porter at teh Weatherspoon White Hart, Todrmorden.

Two additions have been made to the collection since the start of the year, and they are of two notable Todmordians indeed, both Todmorden-born - Professor Grenville Turner and musician Geoff Love.

Surprisingly, it is just about the first recognition Prof Turner has had from the town for his achievements, which rank close to those of the town’s two Nobel prizewinning scientists, Sir John Cockcroft and Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson.

Born in 1936, he is one of the pioneers of cosmochemistry, whose pioneering work on rare cases of meteorites led him to develop the argon-argon dating technique that demonstrated the great age of meteorites and provided a precise chronology of rocks brought back by NASA’s famous Apollo missions, including samples of moon rock, and it is now the most common method used by geologists to date terrestrial rocks.

The Todmorden Grammar School pupil, now 75, went on to study at St John’s College, Cambridge, and Balliol College, Oxford, and went on in 1980 to become, like Sir John and Sir Geoffrey, a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Famous locals pictures and stories displayed at White Hart Wetherspoons, Todmorden

Famous locals pictures and stories displayed at White Hart Wetherspoons, Todmorden

In 1988 he was appointed Professor of Isotope Geochemistry at Manchester University’s Earth Sciences department and continues to be an active researcher in the UK Cosmochemical Analysis Network, a network of laboratories in research institutions that analyse extra-terrestrial material.

To date his achievements have not been rewarded in his home town by the council or the Honours Commission.

It is now over 20 years since Geoff Love passed on at the age of 73, but famously Todmorden never forgot Geoff - and he never forgot Todmorden.

The Todmorden-born trombonist and orchestra leader played with the Ralfini band and, after military service in the second world war, played with Harry Gold’s Pieces of Eight.

Famous locals pictures and stories displayed at White Hart Wetherspoons, Todmorden

Famous locals pictures and stories displayed at White Hart Wetherspoons, Todmorden

Later an orchestra leader in his own right, he recorded albums with some of the biggest names of the 40s, 50s and 60s, including Shirley Bassey, Dame Vera Lynn, Judy Garland, Marlene Deitrich, Mel Torme, Russ Conway, Frankie Vaughan, Johnny Mathis and Connie Francis.

His own albums, many recorded under the name Manuel and His Music of the Mountains, became easy listening classics, re-discovered by a new generation in the 1990s by which time some were fetching collector’s prices.

It’s likely quite a few Todmordians bought records by the exotically-named Manuel without realising it was Geoff, who by the end of his career had more than 50 gold or silver-selling albums to his name.

As a composer, readers of a certain age will remember his themes for television programmes such as Sid James’s comedy Bless This House and the theme for ITV’s This Is Your Life, of which he was the subject in 1975.

Famous locals pictures and stories displayed at White Hart Wetherspoons, Todmorden

Famous locals pictures and stories displayed at White Hart Wetherspoons, Todmorden

He frequently appeared with stars on television or stage, particularly with singer Max Bygraves, and abroad, Frank Ifield, headlining at the International Hotel, Las Vegas, using his own orchestrations.

Geoff did an enormous amount of charity work, working with Bob Monkhouse, conducting concerts for a charity aimed at helping people with learning difficulties, with the help of his wife, Joy, and Bill Starling, he started the Young Person’s Concert Foundation, working with college students.

He often appeared back on stage in Todmorden to conduct Todmorden Old Brass Band and never forgot his roots, especially his mentor Dr John De Ville Mather, who had given him his first trombone, aged 11.

In 1959, 30 years to the day, the Todmorden Orchestra president took delivery of a bulky, carefully wrapped parcel - unwrapped, it was a gleaming Boosey and Hawkes Imperial trombone from Geoff with the message: “I sincerely hope that this will give some kid the chance in life that you and Todmorden Orchestra gave me.”

The two new arrivals join portraits ranging from John Fielden MP via cricketer Peter Lever to rock stars John Helliwell, of Supertramp, and Keith Emerson, of supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer on the White Hart’s walls.

They are certainly popular with customers, says manager Christian Bainbridge.

“It’s Tod’s museum! That’s what people like about the pub - it has fitted in with the local area and these have gone down a storm,” he said.