Nostalgia: Girls’ panto show in Leyland

Pupils at Leyland Secondary School formed their own panto group in 1947. It was started by Marjorie and Rita Walkden. Jean Simmons is in the stripy jumper
Pupils at Leyland Secondary School formed their own panto group in 1947. It was started by Marjorie and Rita Walkden. Jean Simmons is in the stripy jumper
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These young girls loved putting on a good show.

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Jean Simmons, of Leyland, shares her memories

Jean Simmons, of Leyland, shares her memories

When two sisters Marjorie and Rita Walkden, of Leyland Secondary School, wrote their own version of Dick Whittington, they roped in fellow classmates to join in.

The idea escalated and they performed at three venues in Leyland and Chorley in 1947.

Jean Simmons, of Leyland, (pictured wearing a stripy jumper) played Idle Jack.

The 85-year-old says: “Marjorie and Rita were very much into acting and they wrote Dick Whittington.

Our mums made the costumes. Mine was not much. I wore half a jumper which my mum cut for me.

Jean Simmons

“They asked me and some others to be in the panto.

“We played at three different venues - Leyland Public Hall, St Ambrose Church and St George’s Church in Chorley.

“Our mums made the costumes. Mine was not much. I wore half a jumper which my mum cut for me.

“It was wonderful. I enjoyed being in the panto. I was nervous at first.

“I played Idle Jack, who was the funny one.

“We raised money for the families of the Whitehaven pit explosion, which killed 104 people.”

Jean, a mother-of-two, with six grandchildren, added she hasn’t been in any plays since but was on Channel Four’s Deal or No Deal five years ago.

She adds: “I really enjoyed that. I was famous in Leyland for a short while.”

When Jean left school, it wasn’t long before she came back - this time as a cook.

She adds: “I used to serve school meals.

“I started at St Mary’s School in Royal Avenue, part time and then worked my way as a cook at Earnshaw Bridge Infants School. I then went to Leyland Central Kitchen, where we cooked 1,000 meals a day.

“That closed in 1986 and I got a job at Runshaw College as a cook until I retired in 1990.

“It was hard work but I loved it so much.

“I used to enjoy making hot pot and we made a lot of meringues. Food was a lot plainer then than it is now.”

School is still a large part of Jean’s life as she visits Northbrook Primary School to listen to children read.

She adds: “I have done this for the last 13 years, since my husband, Maurice died.

“I really enjoy it - the children learn such a lot - they read really well.”