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Askey, Arthur Bowden (1900–1982), actor and entertainer, was born on 6 June 1900 at 29 Moses Street, Liverpool, the elder child and only son of Samuel Askey (d. 1958), secretary of the firm Sugar Products of Liverpool, and his wife, Betsy Bowden (...

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Arthur Bowden Askey (1900–1982) by Anthony Buckley, 1939 © Kenneth Hughes / National Portrait Gallery, London

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(Una) Winifred Atwell (c. 1913–1983) by unknown photographer, 1957 collection of Stephen Bourne

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Atwell, (Una) Winifred (c. 1913–1983), pianist and entertainer, was born on 27 April c.1913 in Jubilee Street, Tunapuna, near Port of Spain, Trinidad, the only child of a chemist, Frederick Monroe Atwell (d. 1958), and a district nurse, Sarah Elizabeth (...

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Atwell, (Una) Winifred (c. 1913–1983)

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Beckman, Sir Martin (1634/5–1702), pyrotechnist and military engineer, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of Melcher Beckman and his wife, Christiana van Benningen. Their names and his profession suggest a Dutch origin.

By his own account Beckman left his native Sweden about 1645 in order to serve the English crown. His brother served as a royalist captain in the civil war and was royal engineer to the exiled ...

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Bellew [formerly Higgin], John Chippendale Montesquieu (1823–1874), popular preacher and public reader, was born at Lancaster on 3 August 1823. He was the only child of an infantry officer, Captain Robert Higgin (d. 1853) of the 12th regiment, who had married in 1822 a daughter of ...

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Belzoni, Giovanni Battista (1778–1823), performing artist and Egyptologist, was born on 5 November 1778 in Padua, the son of a barber, Giacomo Belzoni, and his wife, Teresa. He went to Rome aged sixteen to prepare himself for monastic orders; he claimed also to have studied hydraulics. The French invasion of ...

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Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823) by Maxim Gauci, pubd 1821 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Boruwlaski, Joseph [formerly Józef Boruslawski], styled Count Boruwlaski (1739–1837), travelling performer and memoirist, was born in November 1739 near Halicz, Galicia, Poland, the third son of a lower gentry family. The principal source for his life is his own memoirs, published in several editions between 1788 and 1820. When he was nine his father died, leaving a widow with five sons and one daughter. Three sons were very tall, but three children suffered from achondroplasia, an inherited condition in which the cartilage in the bones fails to grow. ...

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Bowman [née Bradford], Laura (1881–1957), musical entertainer, was born in Quincy, Illinois, USA, on 3 October 1881, the daughter of Charles Bradford (c.1850–c.1915), bartender, and his wife, Lois Adelaide, née Yeates (c.1850–1912). After being taken by her aunt for an education in ...

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G. Le G. Norgate

revised by Nilanjana Banerji

Brandram, Samuel (1824–1892), reciter, born in London on 8 October 1824, was the only son of William Caldwell Brandram (d. 1839) and his wife, Anne. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' and King's College schools in London and Trinity College, Oxford, from where he graduated with a BA in 1846 and received an MA three years later. At the university he was best known as an athlete. After leaving ...

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Brown, Janet McLuckie (1923–2011), actress and impressionist, was born on 14 December 1923 at 26 Hamilton Road, Rutherglen, near Glasgow, the daughter of Andrew Brown, a sheet-iron worker in the Clyde shipyards, and his wife, Helen McLuckie, née Russell. She was educated at ...

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Janet McLuckie Brown (1923–2011) by Denis Jones, 1979 © Denis Jones / Associated Newspapers / Rex Features

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Bygraves, Walter William [Max] (1922–2012), singer and entertainer, was born on 16 October 1922 at 7 Rye Buildings, Rotherhithe, London, the son of Henry Bygraves, dock labourer and professional boxer, and his wife, Lilian May, née McDonnell. He was brought up in abject poverty in the ...

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Jennett Humphreys

revised by K. D. Reynolds

Carey, George Saville (1743–1807), entertainer and writer, the son of Henry Carey (1687–1743), poet, and his wife, Sarah, who had been a country schoolmistress, was born a short time after his father's suicide on 5 October 1743. Kitty Clive led a benefit performance for the destitute widow and her four small children at ...

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Carson, Hugh Francis [Frank] (1926–2012), comedian, was born at 46 Great Georges Street, Belfast, on 6 November 1926, the son of John Carson, a dustman and newspaper seller, and his wife, Josephine, née Augusta. He was of part Italian descent, his grandmother having emigrated from ...

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Castle, Roy (1932–1994), entertainer and charity campaigner, was born on 31 August 1932 in Holme Valley Memorial Hospital, Holmfirth, West Riding of Yorkshire, the only child of Hubert Castle, an insurance agent, and his wife, Eliza Alice Swallow, a mill worker. His childhood was spent in ...

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Gordon Goodwin

revised by Stuart Handley

Clark, Joseph (d. in or before 1697), contortionist, of unknown origins, established a reputation as a curiosity in late seventeenth-century London, where he was a resident of Pall Mall. Although a well-grown man he owed his fame as a 'posture-maker' to his ability to 'appear in all the deformities that can be imagined, as hunch-backed, pot-bellied, sharp-breasted'. He achieved these transformations because he had 'such an absolute command of all his muscles and joints, that he can dis-joint almost his whole body' (...

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Cook, Peter Edward (1937–1995), humorist and entertainer, was born on 17 November 1937 at Shearbridge, Middle Warberry Road, Torquay, Devon, the only son and eldest of the three children of Alexander Edward (Alec) Cook (d. 1984), colonial civil servant, and his wife, ...