FROM HARPURHEY TO

HIS­TO­RIAN UN­COV­ERS AMAZ­ING STORY OF REL­A­TIVE’S RISE TO FILM FAME

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS - By JACK NEW­MAN and CHRIS OSUH news­[email protected] @MENnews­desk

A TV his­to­rian who has helped celebri­ties trace their fam­ily trees was shocked to dis­cover she was re­lated to a Hol­ly­wood star – who was born in Harpurhey.

Michala Hulme, a pro­fes­sional ge­neal­o­gist and so­cial his­to­rian at Manch­ester Met­ro­pol­i­tan Uni­ver­sity, has ap­peared on Who Do You Think You Are?, help­ing ac­tress Michelle Kee­gan un­earth her fam­ily’s past.

Re­cently, Michala de­cided to take a break from re­search­ing the an­ces­try of celebri­ties and look into her own fam­ily his­tory.

She said: “I do it for other peo­ple all the time but I had never got round to re­search­ing my own an­ces­try, par­tic­u­larly on my mum’s side be­cause I thought there wasn’t any­thing in­ter­est­ing.”

Michala dis­cov­ered her great­grand­fa­ther’s brother John Ver­non, who was born in 1885 in Per­ci­val Street, Harpurhey, later be­came a Hol­ly­wood film star un­der the name Jack Lloyd – ap­pear­ing in Lau­rel and Hardy’s first film to­gether.

“My grandad re­mem­bers him and re­mem­bers that he used to send money home to the fam­ily in Manch­ester be­cause they were very poor,” she said.

“I had no idea that my search would take me from a cob­bled street in north Manch­ester to the glitz of Hol­ly­wood.”

In the 1920s, Michala’s grandad and his mother, Mary Ver­non, were liv­ing on Pilling Street, New­ton Heath, and they would watch their rel­a­tive’s films at the cin­ema.

Jack Lloyd grew up in a two-up two-down and started his work­ing life as an ap­pren­tice cab­i­net maker.

Un­sat­is­fied with his job, he started act­ing when he was 18 and joined a tour­ing the­atre group called the Fred Karno’s Army which boasted among its ranks Char­lie Chap­lin and Arthur Jef­fer­son, who later be­came Stan Lau­rel.

A year later, Jack quit his job and went to New Or­leans hav­ing changed his name from John Ver­non. He spent the next ten years trav­el­ling back and forth from the US tour­ing with the troupe.

His act­ing took him from stage to Hol­ly­wood screen. He went on to ap­pear in 68 silent films and was Stan Lau­rel’s com­edy part­ner in his early films.

The ac­tor also played the role of ‘the boyfriend’ in Lau­rel and Hardy’s first film to­gether – Lucky Dog.

Michala said:”It’s amaz­ing how a cab­i­net maker from north Manch­ester with­out a penny to his name went on to star in Hol­ly­wood.

“I didn’t even know what he looked like but I was able to iden­tify him from his char­ac­ter in Lucky Dog be­cause some­one put it on Youtube.”

In 1928, Jack Lloyd ap­plied for nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion in the US af­ter mar­ry­ing there and his ap­pli­ca­tion was sup­ported by an­other Hol­ly­wood star, Otto Fries.

Jack and his wife Irene didn’t have any chil­dren, he died in May 1933 and is buried in Cal­i­for­nia.

Stan and Ol­lie, a new film star­ring Manch­ester­born comic Steve Coogan, de­picts the twi­light of Lau­rel and Hardy’s ca­reer on a Bri­tish tour.

Jack Lloyd, right, with Lau­rel and Hardy in Lucky Dog The street in Harpurhey where Jack lived Jack Lloyd as a baby and, above, a film poster fea­tur­ing the ac­tor

Michala Hulme

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