Famous People

Some famous people from the Bolton area.

Quiet man and Unsung Hero
Sergeant Norman Matthews of the L.N.L. RegimentIn 1914 Grandpa Norman  left his job in the cotton mill and went  to fight in the  first World War (1914-1918), he was 21 years old. He enlisted in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment where he rose to the rank of Sergeant. Research shows that  later due lack of recruits and the senseless slaughter of millions of  young men fighting in France,  his battalion then amalgamated with the Kings Liverpool regiment, where he rose to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant  commanding and  fighting on the front line in France,  and from  what we learn  from the  history books,  he must have seen and experienced first hand, the horrors and the inhumane suffering of the soldiers and everyone caught up in this awful part of our British History. The poet Wilfred Owen who was a British soldier and one of the leading poets of World War One, wrote in his poem  Dulce et Decorum Est  powerful descriptions  from first-hand experience, about the shocking conditions faced by soldiers in the trenches and the effects of gas warfare. In the first line of the poem  Wilfred Owen writes…
“Bent double like beggars under sacks, knock kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge” and in the next stanza writes,
“Gas ! Gas! Quick boys – An ecstasy of fumbling, fitting clumsy helmets just in time”
Wilfred Owen was killed in action a week before the war ended.
In Thomas Hardy’s poem “The man he killed” written about the Boer War, is spoken from a soldiers point of view, asking himself that had he and the other soldier met under different circumstances, they probably would have bought each other a drink instead of trying to kill each other pointing out that ordinary men fight and kill not because they want to but because they are trained and forced to.
“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have set us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin
Contrary to other poets of  the time, who romanticised and glorified the war promising adventure, excitement and glory to persuade men sign up as soldiers, Wilfred Owen, Thomas Hardy  and history shows, the reality of life on the front line turned out to be very different.


Grandpa Norman like many brave young men of World War One never spoke about his time in the war or the sights he’d witnessed, he returned home in 1918, to married life and to the lovely Grandma Sarah, and a year later, on the 6th of July 1919 their only son Ronald was born. Together they all settled down in a lovely house with a lovely garden in the Middle Hulton area on the outskirts of Bolton and they lived there for the rest of their lives.  Grandpa Norman died in hospital in 1967 aged 74 yrs old and Grandma Sarah died in the same hospital in December 1970 aged 77 yrs old  leaving behind  precious and everlasting memories.



Grandpa Norman and his beloved Shed.

Grandpa Norman was a typical Grandpa, he spent lots of time with his grandchildren, a quiet, gentle, patient man,  spent time in his beloved shed at the bottom of the garden, making items of furniture for the house. He would also make small items of furniture for the neighbours and considering that his main occupation was a cotton mill worker, his natural skills with the plane and the lathe were amazing. The smell of warm wood, glue and home-made wood stains coming from his shed was always a clue that he would be working on the latest footstool, cabinet or light fitting.
Below are a list of the home-made wood stains he made up and used.
Light oak stain
Mix ¼ pint of liquid ammonia with ¾ of a pint of rainwater.
Add Yellow Ochre to the shade required.
Brown Oak Stain
1oz of Permanganate of Potash,
Dissolve in 1 Pint of rainwater,
Add a little Brown or Burnt Umber.
Try out on waste wood, if too light in colour Add a little more Umber until the required colour is obtained.
Rosewood Stain
½ lb of logwood ghips.
Boil in 1 quart of water
A little soda will help to draw out the colour.

Fred Dibnah MBE

Steeplejack, Television Presenter and Mechanical Engineer.


Fred Dibnah 1 Fredrick Dibnah was born on the 28th April 1938 in Bolton.

He began his working life as a joiner before he became a steeplejack.

After completing his two years National Service in the armed forces, Fred was demobbed in1962 and returned to steeplejacking but the decline in the cotton industry affected his work. Mills all over the town were closing and he struggled to get work.

Then he was  asked to repair the Bolton Parish Church, and  the publicity that  followed helped to boost his flagging business ensuring that he was always  in employment.

He also made repairs to Bolton’s stunning Town Hall where decades of wear had caused serious damage to the clock tower. Fred repaired the clock tower and gilded the golden sphere at the top of the building. Whilst he was working on the town hall he was approached by the BBC Look North West News programme, who wanted to interview him, the interview took place at the top of the town hall with Fred perched outside on his scaffolding.


This led to television appearances and further interviews, most of them hundreds of feet in the air, and he was contacted by a producer with a view to making a documentary and this was a great success, he was asked to do many more over the years and in 1979 Fred won the BAFTA award for best documentary.

Fred Dibnah was recognised as the stereotypical northern working man and he was held in high esteem by many British people, he was unique and his like we will never see again, he was one of a kind.

Fred Dibnah 3Fred Dibnah died Bolton Hospice on the 6th of November 2004 he was 66 years old, he is buried in Tonge Cemetery on the outskirts of Bolton town centre, thousands turned out to watch his funeral. His coffin was towed through the centre of Bolton by his restored tractor engine which was driven by his son and a possession of steam-powered vehicles made their way to Bolton Parish Church.



Fred Dibnah 2Today a bronze statue of  stands in Bolton town centre in memory of Fred Dibnah MBE.

A play titled “The Demolition Man” was staged at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre in tribute to Freds early life.

Kenneth Wolstenholme

Kenneth  Wolstenholme

Kenneth Wolstenholme was born in Worsley not far from Bolton, he went to Farnworth Grammar School, (quite near to the school where I work)

He started career as a journalist with a Manchester Newspaper.

In World War two,  he was a qualified pilot, and he flew many brave sorties over occupied Europe for his bravery he was awarded the DFC and Bar. After the war he became a freelance journalist working for the BBC then he moved to television.

He is best remembered for his commentary of the 1966 World Cup Final at Wembley Stadium when in injury time a small number of the crowd invaded the pitch and Kenneth Wolstenholme said  “They think it’s all over” but then Geoff Hurst scored another goal which prompted him to say “IT IS NOW!”