Blue plaques for Wigan-born royal composer and renowned scientist

Kathleen Mary Drew Baker

Unveiling ceremonies will take place throughout the year with Folly Field, a site where rugby was first played in 1862, chosen to coincide with the Wigan Warriors 150th anniversary year.

The career of Sir Ernest Bullock, an orphan who became director of the Royal College of Music and responsible for music at the coronation of King George VI, will be honoured.

Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker, who is revered in Japan and known as the “Mother of the Sea” for her scientific research, will have a plaque placed near her former home in Leigh.

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Orphan Ernest Bullock went on to lead the world famous Royal Academy of Music

Wigan Council Leader David Molyneux said: “The lineup for 2022 is a remarkable mix of individuals and the origins of a sporting institution who have all made their mark across the world.

“We are extremely proud of their roots in the Borough of Wigan and that is what the Blue Plaque Scheme is all about. It showcases our rich heritage and is an integral part of our cultural strategy.

Folly Field on Upper Dicconson Street was the location of the original ground of Wigan Rugby Club with matches played there since 1862. The last match held there in 1886 drew 18,000 spectators from across the area to watch Aspull defeat Wigan in the Wigan Union Charity Cup.

The Wigan Warriors are celebrating their 150th anniversary throughout 2022 and the plaque is set to highlight an important part of the club’s origins.

Marc Selby started a petition two years ago to get a plaque for the fields.

Born in Wigan, Sir Ernest (1890–1979) was a chorister at Wigan Parish Church who lost his parents as a child but went on to become one of the most important figures in English church music.

He became assistant organist at Manchester Cathedral, then musical director at Exeter Cathedral before joining Westminster Abbey as musical director.

Knighted in 1951, he was appointed Principal of the Royal College of Music in 1952.

His success as a composer means his hymns – such as Give Us The Wings Of Faith and O Most Merciful – continue to be sung in churches and cathedrals around the world.

Born in Leigh, Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker (1901–1957) was a world-renowned scientist and botanist. His research on nori (edible seaweed used in sushi) made him a famous figure in Japan. A monument was erected to his memory in 1963 in the town of Uto and his life is celebrated annually on April 14.

Wigan Council blue plaques are a permanent sign installed in a public place to commemorate a link between that place and a famous person, event or former building on the site.

Nominations can now be submitted for next year, with ceremonies taking place each year linked to the council’s cultural manifesto, The Fire Within. Further details on the unveiling ceremonies will be provided later in 2022.

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