Thornber, John


Collection date: Nov 1914

Area: Lancashire

John Thornber of Burnley: age 58, 2 songs ‘Tree in the Wood’ (FT3068) and ‘The Jolly Waggoner’ (FT3069) on 12 Nov 1914: Sharp gave the age of this singer as 58, which indicates a birth date of c1856. There are no helpful clues in either of Sharp’s field notebooks. Unfortunately also there were 3 men called John Thornber born in Burnley around that date.

The most likely candidate is John Thornber, husband of Ellen (née Preston), a cotton weaver who lived at 56 New Hall Street in each of the censuses 1891, 1901 and 1911. He was aged 55 in the 1911 census and had a son William Edward. John died on 15/3/1919.

Another John Thornber, husband of Jane Annie (née Watson), was aged 54 in the 1911 census. He was a cotton manufacturer, who left £23,000 in his will (equivalent of £2.3 million today), when he died in Sept 1922. Why a millionaire would know and want to sing ‘The Jolly Waggoner’ to Sharp is an open question. He lived much of his life at Habergham Eaves, just south of Burnley. He was the son of Luke Thorner, an overlooker in a mill and he himself was an overlooker in his 20’s. He married a grocer’s daughter, so he neither inherited nor married into money. But somehow he attained great wealth. He seems a less likely candidate, unless new evidence comes to light.

The third John Thornber, a bachelor, was listed in the 1911 census as 56, a retired steam engineer living at Raglan Road. He would have been of the right age but can be eliminated,as he died in July 1913. 

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