Morley & District Family History Group
......was a Churwell rhubarb grower, taking over the Manor Farm from his father Walter Popplewell who had been the president of the Rugby League when he took the first British team to Australia . The farm is no longer in existence but the house, part of which dates back to 1605, still survives on Old Road , Churwell.
Jack Popplewell produced two harvests each year, forced rhubarb in the winter and green-top in summer, thus providing all year round employment for hard working Churwell people. Houses now stand on the rhubarb fields.
Whilst still operating his farm he led another life which brought him into contact with famous musicians, singers, actors and show business personalities and this started when he became a song contest winner organized by the “News Chronicle.” This gained him the £50 first prize but, more importantly, the song was published and it became a massive hit in 1940’s being performed and recorded by many artistes.
“If I Should Fall in Love Again” is still played and sung today. He then continued to write more than 40 songs many of which were recorded by Vera Lynn, Geraldo, Ambrose, Gigli, Anne Shelton, Bing Crosby and many other stars.
As if these achievements were not sufficient Mr. Popplewell proceeded to become a famous playwright, his first being "Blind Alley" which opened in 1953 and was made into a film in 1958 entitled "Tread Softly Stranger", starring Diana Dors and George Baker. "Dead on Nine" was his next and this opened at the Westminster Theatre in 1955 with Andrew Cruikshank and Griffith Johns. A smash hit in 1957 was "Dear Delinquent" with David Tomlinson, Anna Massey and Patrick Cargill. Later successes were "A Day in the Life of...."(1958), "And Suddenly its Spring" (1959), and "Busybody" (1964), which was his most successful and which did a world tour. He allowed another of his plays, "Breakfast in Bed", which he wrote in four weeks, to be staged at the New Pavilion by the Old Morleians Amateur Dramatic Society on 1st December 1958 and again on 27 th April 1972 at Morley Grammar School, he personally attended both productions
Jack Popplewell eventually moved to “Vaynol Gate” in Rooms Lane , Morley where he resided with his wife Betty and daughters Juliet and Vanessa. He entertained at his home celebrities from the stage and musical world. One of his friends was Vera Lynn who returned home with some Churwell rhubarb roots in an attempt to grow them in her garden in Surrey , no doubt this was not a success as rhubarb only seemed to flourish in the sooty soil of the old mill towns.
During the war years Jack was a popular member of the Morley concert party
“The Revellers” which traveled throughout the North of England providing much appreciated entertainment at Army Depots and R.A.F. stations.
Mr. Jack Popplewell, a real celebrity, was born in 1909 and died on 16 th November 1997 . His remains were buried at sea.
information supplied by R Barraclough
© Carol Sklinar