James Robinson Clitheroe (24 December 1921 – 6 June 1973), popularly known as Jimmy Clitheroe, was an English comic entertainer. He is best remembered for his long running BBC Radio programme, The Clitheroe Kid (1956–72), two versions of which were produced for television on the ITV network: That's My Boy! (which ran for seven episodes in 1963), and Just Jimmy (which ran for 5 years, between 1964–68).
James Robinson Clitheroe
|Born||24 December 1921|
Clitheroe, Lancashire, England
|Died||6 June 1973 51) (aged|
Blackpool, Lancashire, England
|Cause of death||Accidental overdose of sleeping tablets|
|Occupation||Comedian, actor, musician|
|Net worth||Left £102,306 in will published on 25 October 1973.|
|Height||4 ft 2 in (127 cm) tall|
|Parent(s)||James Robert Clitheroe. Emma (Pye) Clitheroe.|
He was born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, England on Christmas Eve 1921 at 58 Wilkin Street (now called Highfield Road), to weavers Emma Pye and James Robert Clitheroe, who had married in 1918. He was born at his maternal grandparents' home. His childhood was spent in the mill village of Blacko, near Nelson, living at 14 Spout Houses, a row of terrace houses below Blacko Tower. He attended the Council School up to the age of 12, when he transferred to Barrowford Board School for his final two years (in an era when education was only compulsory up to the age of 14).
An only child, he was named after his mother's younger brother, James Robinson Pye, who had been born in Clitheroe in 1894 and was killed in action in the First World War.
According to newspapers in 1938, at the age of 16 he was 3 ft 6½ ins. His father was over 6 ft tall but Jimmy never grew any taller than 4 ft 2in — about average for an 8 or 9 year old boy. His small size was thought to be caused by his thyroid gland being damaged at birth during a forceps delivery and, until later life, he could easily pass for an 11-year-old, which was the character he played on stage, in his early films, and on radio and television. This was a medical accident, not dwarfism: he was perfectly normally proportioned, a normal child who just never grew up. He simply continued to look 9 years old. But he didn't see this as a misfortune — rather the reverse. It was the basis of his fame and fortune, the foundation of his long and successful showbusiness career.
As he was too small to work in the weaving sheds with his parents, since he could not reach the looms, he worked for a time in a bakery in Nelson, but was also touring the variety theatres in Yorkshire and Lancashire from 1937 as a boy accordionist, and also played the xylophone and saxophone. Later, he bought a caravan to live in whilst touring the various towns in whose theatres he appeared. He made his first pantomime appearance in 1938, alongside the bumptious "Two Ton" Tessie O'Shea. In pantomime he was usually cast as Buttons, Tom Thumb, or Wishee Washee. but moved into films from 1940 (thanks to a chance meeting with top of the bill stars Arthur Lucan & Kitty McShane), and moved into radio from 1954 (initially on the BBC's regional Home Service North, and subsequently on the nationwide Light Programme), and finally onto television (with ITV, produced by ABC Television in their Manchester studios) from 1963.
His long-running radio programme on the BBC, The Clitheroe Kid, which aired from 1956 until August 1972, is still occasionally repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra. His catchphrase was "Don't some mothers 'ave 'em!"
In 1959 he was invited to take part in the Royal Command variety show, in the presence of the Queen Mother, and starred in his own television series, Holiday Hotel.
Mollie Sugden (who played Mrs Slocombe in the BBC TV series Are You Being Served?) played his mother on stage in the early 1960s, and also in his ITV television series Just Jimmy from 1964 to 1968 (which also featured Clitheroe's co-star from The Clitheroe Kid, Danny Ross).
He owned a bookmaker's shop on Springfield Road, Blackpool and the Fernhill Hotel at Preesall. He appeared on the Blackpool stage for many decades, from 1936 until 1971. For many years he drove an enormous Mercedes car, with blocks on the pedals so that his feet could reach them. Appearing to be an underage driver, he could seldom complete a journey without attracting the attention of the police.
On 30 March 1973 he collapsed in his hotel room in Plymouth, while touring in a variety show, and spent four days in hospital.
Jimmy Clitheroe died on 6 June 1973 from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills, combined with seven brandies, on the day of his mother's funeral. He was found unconscious in bed by relatives, and died later that day in hospital in Blackpool. His mother had died five days before, aged 84. His funeral was held at Carleton Crematorium, Blackpool, on 11 June 1973, where for many years he was commemorated by a plaque attached to memorial tree Number 3. Over 300 people attended.
He never married. From 1960 onwards he lived with his mother, to whom he was devoted, in a bungalow on the Bispham Road in Blackpool. His father had died on 9 January 1951, from complications arising from injuries sustained in the First World War.
- Old Mother Riley in Society (1940) with Lucan and McShane – as Boots
- Much Too Shy (1942) with George Formby – as Jimmy
- Rhythm Serenade (1943) with Dame Vera Lynn – as Jimmy
- Somewhere in Politics (1948) with Frank Randle – as Sonny
- School for Randle (1949) with Frank Randle – as Jimmy
- Stars in Your Eyes (1956) with Nat Jackley – as Joey
- Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon (1967) with Burl Ives – as General Tom Thumb
- JIMMY CLITHEROE Popular radio entertainer. The Times Thursday, 7 June 1973; pg. 21; Issue 58802
- Gill Johnson (17 May 2007). "Research reveals life of 'Clitheroe Kid'". Lancashire Telegraph. Newquest. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Lancashire Lantern community history – East Lancashire Regiment". Lancs-local-resources.talis.com. 30 March 1917. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
- Glynne-Jones, Tim (2014). Born in the 60s. Arcturus Publishing. ISBN 978-1-90940-978-1.
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
- Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. pp. 412/3. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
- "Tragic end of Blackpool comic genius". Blackpool Gazette. Johnston Publishing. 2 May 2008. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- Newcastle Journal - 12 June 1973
- Rhythm Serenade at the Internet Movie DataBase
- Jimmy Clitheroe on IMDb
- Jimmy Clitheroe in the BBC Genome
- 'The Clitheroe Kid' in the BBC Genome
- Stephen Poppitt's Jimmy Clitheroe website (founded in 2001), originally at JimmyClitheroe.co.uk
- Jimmy Clitheroe website (archived version) (2012)
- Jimmy Clitheroe's ITV television shows at Uncle Earl's Classic TV Channel