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 BBC Radio programme, The Clitheroe Kid (1958–72), two versions of which were produced for television on the ITV network. That's My Boy! (which ran for at least seven episodes in 1963) and Just Jimmy (1964–68).
James Robinson Clitheroe
|Born||24 December 1921|
Clitheroe, Lancashire, England
|Died||6 June 1973 (aged 51)|
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|
|Weight||5 st (70 lb; 32 kg)|
|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' house. Within days the family moved to 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.
According to newspapers in 1938, at the age of 16 Clitheroe was 3 ft 6 in and a half. 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. Clitheroe's small size was 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 in The Clitheroe Kid. 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.
Clitheroe was too small to work in the weaving sheds with his parents as he could not reach the looms so at first he worked in a bakery in Nelson on leaving school, but before long started out on the stage, touring the variety theatres in Yorkshire and Lancashire from 1937. He was a boy accordionist and also played the xylophone and saxophone. His parents bought a caravan so they could take him round 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), 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 May 1958 to August 1972, is still occasionally repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra. His catchphrase was "Don't some mothers 'ave 'em!"
In 1959 Clitheroe took part in the royal command variety show and he also starred in the television series Holiday Hotel.
Mollie Sugden (who played Mrs Slocombe in the BBC TV series Are You Being Served?) played Clitheroe's mother on stage in the 1960s and in his ITV television series Just Jimmy from 1964 to 1968 (which also featured Clitheroe's co-star from The Clitheroe Kid, Danny Ross).
Clitheroe owned a bookmaker's shop on Springfield Road and the Fernhill Hotel at Preesall, and appeared on Blackpool stages for many decades. For many years he drove a Mercedes with blocks on the pedals so his feet could reach them. Appearing to be an underage driver, he could seldom complete a journey without coming to the attention of the police.
In September 1972 The Clitheroe Kid was cancelled by the BBC after a 16-year run.
On 30 March 1973 he collapsed in his hotel room in Plymouth, and spent four days in hospital.
Jimmy Clitheroe died on 6 June 1973 from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills and after having seven brandies, on the day of his mother's funeral. He was found unconscious in bed by relatives, and died later that same day in hospital in Blackpool. His mother had died five days before, aged 84. His funeral was held at Carleton Crematorium, Blackpool, where for many years he was commemorated by a plaque attached to memorial tree Number 3.
- 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. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- 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.
- Rhythm Serenade at the Internet Movie DataBase