Maurice Stanworth Howarth, known to everyone as 'Mo', was born on 19th June 1922 and passed away on 21st April 2016 aged 93 years. His father Edward Howarth (known as 'Ned') had been an iron turner at the local foundry in Burnley and married Mo's mother Annie Langley, a cotton weaver, on 30th April 1908. Mo had an elder sister Helen ('Nellie'). Annie Langley became a proficient ventriloquist, having been taught by her brother James Langley. Mo said his father was always forward thinking and quite a successful entrepreneur. Ned and Annie decided that her skill as a ventriloquist could provide the family with a new livelihood away from the toils of the foundry and the mill. Annie created her ventriloquism act and Ned became her manager. She arranged for Bert Aza to become her agent; he was agent for Gracie Fields. As 'Josephine Langley' Annie was very successful as a lady ventriloquist touring the theatres and music halls during and after the First World War as recounted in the book written by myself and Mo 'Josephine Langley, Lady Ventriloquist : The Story of Mrs Edward Howarth' which we published in 2008. Mo was delighted that we had been able to tell his mother's story of how a Burnley mill girl became a successful music hall artiste.
It was a family joke that Mo had 'appeared' on the stage at the Blackburn Grand Theatre in 1921 when 'Josephine Langley' presented her ventriloquism act as she was, of course, expecting Mo at that time. At the age of 5 Mo was taught simple magic tricks and ventriloquism by his father and mother, ensuring an interest which extended over an amazing eight eight years! He never stopped seeking to learn something new.
On their return from America Ned worked at the Burnley Victoria Theatre and as a boy Mo operated the 'limes' (intense white lighting used in theatres at the time) and saw many artistes over the years. He remembered seeing in the 1930s and 1940s magicians such as Jasper Maskelyne, Voltaire, Chris Charlton, Jack Ledair, Les Levante, Benson Dulay, Cingalee, Claude Williams, Jack and Mary Kinson, the Great Benyon, Robert Harbin, Joe Stuthard and Maurice Fogel. Jasper Maskelyne was aloof and very strict with his staff. Robert Harbin was genial and very kind. He also recalled the ventriloquists David Poole, Raymond Smith and Arthur Prince.
Ned died in 1939. Despite his great love of magic, ventriloquism and the theatre Mo decided he would get a 'proper job'. He went to work for the Prestige Group in Burnley which was well known as the manufacturer of pressure cookers and kitchen utensils. He ended up as Chief Draftsman in charge of the drawing office. It always caused him much amusement to think he had earned his living using a pencil long before the days of computer design. He also did engineering drawings on commission for other small businesses in the area. He always maintained an interest in engineering, fascinated by anything mechanical.
During the Second World War Mo was not allowed to join the services as his job was classed as a 'reserved occupation' vital to the home war effort. So, he joined all the auxiliary services and spent much of his time using his drawing skills to draw maps, distributing them among his colleagues in the Home Guard with the help of a friend who owned a motor cycle.
Helen Yeadon, Mo's elder sister, became an accomplished ventriloquist in her own right and Mo's nephew, her son John Yeadon, visited Mo in later years. John is a professional artist, having lectured on the subject for thirty years at Coventry University. John's elder brother, Mo's other nephew, is also called Maurice and has just retired as Professor of Sports Science at Loughborough University.
After the War Mo was involved with a concert party, and through this met Ken Green who became his lifelong magical friend until Ken's death in 1998. Ken had been a member of The Modern Mystic League since 1942 and Mo joined in 1947. At the time of his death Mo was the oldest member. Ken and Mo appeared at many magic dinners and events together and became regular features at magic conventions throughout the United Kingdom where their humour and practical jokes became legendary. Ken usually came up with something outrageous but Mo always went along with it! Mo attended nearly every Blackpool Convention since they began, from 1953 until 2012 and held the record for the most guest performances (fourteen). He also went to many International Brotherhood of Magicians, British Ring Conventions.
Mo and Mona were married on 2nd July 1949. An elegant lady, Mo said she taught him about many things such as food, cooking and dressing well. Mo was always well turned out and smart, seldom without a tie. Mona became a tax inspector working for the Inland Revenue. She was an enthusiast for amateur dramatics and a leading member of The Highcliffe Players in the Burnley area, taking part in many productions. She also became wardrobe mistress and at one time their house was full of all kinds of costumes and clothes. Although they had no children of their own they had family members and many friends. Mo respected Mona's interest in the theatre just as much as she respected his interest in magic. Sadly Mona suffered much ill health before her death in June 1998. Mo keenly felt her loss. Lately his affairs were dealt with by Chris and Jim and Mo's cousin Connie, a retired Doctor from London, also visited.
Following his retirement from the Prestige Group Mo took part time employment as a curator at Towneley Hall, Burnley's historic country house, and was sent on courses on art appreciation and antiques which he greatly enjoyed. He stayed at Towneley until 1987. When his aunt left him the necessary materials he took up oil painting, specialising mainly in abstract art.