VALENTINE’S Day 56 years ago – February 14 1961 – Britain’s biggest entertainment star ukulele legend George Formby and religious education teacher Pat Howson got engaged on her 36th birthday.
After the happy couple celebrated their announcement in Waddington, near Clitheroe, in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire, they returned to Pat’s home in Penwortham, Preston, where they relaxed in peace and quiet – away from the world media frenzy that film, comedy and singing idol Formby had attracted for decades.
A wedding was planned at St Francis Hill Chapel, Goosnargh, Lancashire, a picturesque country setting on the outskirts of Preston, founded in 1755.
But love turned to tragedy when Formby suffered a heart attack – just six days after their engagement – while dining with Pat in Penwortham.
And on March 6, 1961, Formby died after suffering another heart attack while in St Joseph’s Hospital, Mount Street, Preston, aged 56.
“I’ll never find anyone like George. Everyone loved him. He was the most wonderful man I’ve ever met – I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life,” said heartbroken Pat.
After Pat Howson’s dream engagement to Formby, whom she had known as a schoolgirl, she too died a little over a decade after Formby’s passing, in November 1971, from ovarian cancer.
On Valentine’s Day – approaching six decades ago – George and Pat announced their engagement in style, when arriving at The Moorcock Inn, Waddington, in a Rolls Royce.
Pat showed off her huge solitaire engagement diamond ring. On her lapel she wore a gold ukulele brooch – a symbol of Formby’s stardom, famed for songs including When I’m Cleaning Windows, My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock, and Leaning On A Lampost.
It’s a childhood Valentine’s Day love story, that turned to tragedy for Pat, the only daughter of parents Fred, who became estranged from the family, and Kathleen Howson.
Father Middlehurst, Rector of St Wilfrid’s Church, Preston, where Pat Howson’s funeral took place, prior to burial at Preston Cemetery, said: “Miss Howson didn’t have such a happy life.
“She had a broken home, and romance which was broken by death, within a few weeks of the wedding.”
*To order a copy of ‘Formby’s Lost Love’ price £10 by Los Montesinos author Andrew Atkinson email: firstname.lastname@example.org