HISTORIAN Steve Chapples has been researching the life of Jimmy Clitheroe, the diminutive entertainer, best remembered from the 50s and 60s.

Much of the background has been provided by Jimmy's cousin Irene Oxford, who was born in the same bedroom and kept in the same bottom drawer, which doubled as a cot, seven years later.

Jimmy Clitheroe had his own radio show from 1958 to 1972 called The Clitheroe Kid, which had more than 10million listeners at its height.

He also appeared on TV, and stage, with many of the top stars of the day.

James Robinson Clitheroe was born at 58, Wilkin Street, now called Highfield Road, in Clitheroe, Lancashire, on Christmas Eve, 1921.

His thyroid gland was damaged during the birth and he never grew after the age of 11, remaining at 4ft 3in.

He was brought up in Blacko at 14, Spout Houses, a row of terrace houses below Blacko Tower, and attended the Council School up to the age of 12, when he transferred to Barrowford Board School for his final two years.

On his back street he put on ha'penny shows, including refreshments, which was lemonade powder mixed in a bucket.

He had an ambition to join the circus and began taking part in variety shows, including the Sunday school potato pie suppers, and later with the Methodist Church's concert party, which toured East Lancashire.

"Skip", as he was known to his friends, was bullied at school, but his fleetness of foot meant he could run around the other boys and nip their arms and legs, hence his other nickname "The Little Nipper".

He played cricket and football and was often carried to school on the shoulders of one of his best friends, Harry Blezzard, who was twice his size, but the same age.

He took part in village concerts and won a talent competition at the Alhambra, in Nelson, with his dancing and piano accordion routine.

Later he abandoned this heavy instrument and played the saxophone instead.

Unable to go into the weaving sheds like his parents, as he could not reach the looms, he got a job in a Nelson bakery for a while, but left it as he quipped, "Because I wasn't making enough dough".

He then joined an all-girl dancing troupe called the Winstanley Babes and toured with them, doing acrobatics, dancing, roller skating, and female impressions.

When touring, theatrical landladies always insisted that Jimmy had to sleep downstairs on the couch.

Lily Whittaker, from Great Harwood, remembers Jimmy joining Miss Winstanley's troupe for their Isle of Man tour.

If Jimmy was tired, she would give him a piggy back and, as he did not eat that much, she would finish off the meagre rations they were given to eat. She earned just five shillings a week.

He was found dead at his Blackpool home in 1973, at the age of 51, on the day of his mother's funeral.

He is remembered at the Jimmy Clitheroe cafe, by the market in Clitheroe, which has many posters and photographs of him, and where countless members of the showbusiness community have popped in over the years to pay their respects.