More of Ethel Formby

The Woman’s Weekly of 16 October 1943 fills in some details omitted by the Argus of 2 October 1943. The first and most obvious point was that Ethel was better looking than older brother George.

Ethel Formby

Ethel was the youngest of the seven Formby (really Booth) children, and she was interviewed while playing the Melbourne Tivoli circuit. She had just spend a year in New Zealand with her husband, John Gibson, who flew fighters with the RAF. She met Johnny when she was 18 years old and married him after a five-day courtship. “He was so persistent”.

John Gibson

While in Australia, Ethel hoped to meet former members of squadron 457, in which her husband had been a flight commander. Johnnie had to bail out of his aircraft on three occasions during his war service, and once landed his plane on an unexploded German bomb. (It went off, destroying his fighter, about 20 minutes after he was out of it).

Ethel lost a ukulele during the Blitz, along with everything she had in the house. The lost uke was named Bertha (the one she had taken to boarding school), but happily her other ukes, Matilda and Ermyntrude were still ok.

She started on the stage as a dancer, but took up ukulele performances because it was much easier than dancing. She played the same sorts of songs as her older brother, only using her Lancashire accent for these performances.

Published in: on December 16, 2010 at 10:21 am  Comments (10)  
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Ethel Formby in Australia — 1943

Another newspaper report…


Petite, blonde Ethel Formby, sister of the famous George, arrived in Melbourne from Sydney yesterday to fulfil an engagement with Tivoli Theatres, opening on October 11 in Folies Bergeres. Later she expects to tour Australia entertaining servicemen.

Had not Ethel followed in [George’s] footsteps, she could have made a name for herself by her own good looks and bright personality. She is little more than 5ft in height, with hazel eyes and fair complexion.

Taking up the ukulele, one of the many instruments in the Formby house, Ethel taught herself to play and sing, and it wasn’t long before she began to get engagements in music halls and revues, singing Lancashire dialect songs to banjo accompaniment.

In private life, Ethel is Mrs J. A. Gibson, wife of Battle of Britain pilot, Flt-Lt Gibson, DFC, a New Zealander serving with the RAF, whom she met and married in England a month after the war broke out.

(From The Argus, Saturday, 2 October 1943, page 8.)

A photo of her might be found here

Published in: on December 3, 2009 at 6:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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