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