A Dewsbury Great.
One of a select group of individuals born, bred or living in Dewsbury who have made their mark on their town and country. The Dewsbury Greats have featured in various exhibitions and publications since they were first researched and published in 1992.
Comedy legend who always remembered his relatives in Dewsbury
IT is more than IOO years ago since young John Shaw set off in high spirits from his home town of Dewsbury to take up his new appointment at a little village Cooperative store in the heart of the beautiful Lake District.
He could not have known, on that long journey into Cumbria, that he would soon he forging links with a family that was later to produce one of t he world's most famous comedians - the lovable and unforgettable thin half of the Laurel and Hardy duo.
Through marriage, young John Shaw, a member of a highly respected Dewsbury family, was later to become not only an uncle, but also a lifelong friend of Stanley Arthur Jefferson — a man destined to shake the world with laughter as Stan Laurel.
John Shaw, whose two nephews. Herbert and Henry , were later to become mayors of Dewsbury, was also instrumental in bringing back to Dewsbury a number of Stan’s relatives.
These included Stan’s youngest brother, Teddy, who attended a school in Hanging Heaton, and his Grandad and Grandma Metcalf, who lived in Stoneyhurst Avenue, Crackenedge, and who are buried in Dewsbury cemetery.
There are more relatives of Stan Laurel living in the Dewsbury area than anywhere else In the world.
The family's trail ran all over town
It was soon apparent that John’s transfer from the Dewsbury branch of the Co-op to Ulverston was beginning to pay dividends, for it was here that he met his young bride, Sarah Ann Metcalfe. Their union was blessed with six children.
About the same time. Sarah's only sister, Margaret, married a young man in the entertainment business, Arthur Jefferson, who owned a number of theatres. Stan Laurel was the second of their four children, born in 1890 and christened Stanley Arthur Jefferson.
But the young Stan Jefferson was to remain unknown to the world for many years to come.
Like his friend and contemporary, Charlie Chaplin, he had to go to America before being recognised as a world star.
Stan was to team up with another unknown comic, Oliver Hardy, and become the most famous stooge ever.
While Stan was making a name for himself, John Shaw returned to this area, little realising that other members of Stan's family would follow and eventually settle here.
In Dewsbury and the surrounding districts. there are now perhaps more of Stan’s closer relatives (on his mother’s side), than in any other part of the world. For it was the Shaw “branch" of the family tree that flourished and produced many offspring.
The Jeffersons were not so fortunate. Stan had only one child, Lois, born to his first wife a beautiful American girl.
His two brothers. Teddy and Gordon, had no children, neither had his sister Beatrice.
It was relatives on his mother's side who eventually settled In this area, his mother’s parents. Grandma and Grandad Metcalf, came to live with the Shaws In Warwick Road. Batley Carr.
The Shaws later lived In Stoneyhurst Avenue. Crackenedge Lane. Dewsbury, until their death.
Although Stan became one of the biggest names In show business, he still maintained a close relationship with his family, especially his “Aunt Nant" and Uncle John.
Throughout his golden days in Hollywood. he was to keep in touch and visit them when he was in England.
His cousins were then living in Staincliffe, Batley Carr. Woodkirk, Batley and Dewsbury.
Stan's cousins on the Shaw side of the family were Mary, Elsie. Nellie. Jack. Charlie and George.
Stan's last visit to the Shaw family is a memorable one to most of them.
Just before the Second World War. a gathering of the Shaw clan was held at the home of cousin Nellie, in Birkdale Road.
One member of the Shaw family, Mrs Nancy Wardell. of Bennett Lane. Dewsbury. recalls the visit, the family party and the other occasions when she met not only Stan Laurel but Oliver Hardy as well.
ONE of Stan's younger relatives, Mrs Nancy Wardell, of Bennett Lane, Dewsbury, takes an interest in her famous second cousin
"He was my mother's cousin and I liked him very much. I remember almost everything my mother used to tell me about their childhood together. They were obviously very happy,” she said.
"I met him with my mother on a number of occasions and had dinner with him and Hardy and their wives when they were staying in Morecambe. We had a lovely day together, we were taken by chauffeur-driven car to see their show. It was a memorable experience.
“Hardy, despite his size, was a very graceful person and I remember he seemed rather quiet. He might have been the dominant one on stage, but it was the reverse hi real life. He seemed very reserved.
“I was only about 21 at the time and was. I suppose, very impressed. I have kept all Stan's photographs and letters. I also have a cine film we took in his dressing room. It was a family film and he was quite natural right until the last few seconds. Then he ruffled his hair like he used to on films.
‘ My mother thought a great deal about him Stan often wrote to her.
"As children. Stan was always the funny one, always getting into trouble. Even when they were small, he used to give little shows at home and make my mother and his cousins take part.
"When he became famous, he still liked to talk about those* days, the little concerts they gave and the times he got into trouble with Grandma Metcalf.
“Whenever the children did anything wrong, they were relegated to the wash house without any supper. Stan never used to complain about this — until they discovered that he had a hoard of comics and candles there.
The last time I saw him was at a family party at my Auntie Nellie's house in Blrkdale Road. Nearly all the family was there.
“Stan came in his chauffeur driven car as far as the Empire, which he knew very well, and then our uncle picked him up.
"He talked a lot about the old days — and I never saw him after that, although we continued to write."