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From Dixie Dean to Daniel Craig: Famous Faces from The Wirral

The 15 mile-long Wirral Peninsula has been the birthplace and home of millions of proud Northerners for thousands of years.

But it seems there’s something in the water of the Merseyside borough, with a number of notable names claiming the area as their home.

From the iconic footballer Dixie Dean, to world-renowned actor Daniel Craig, the celebrity count of The Wirral keeps getting higher and higher. The peninsula has bred sports players, writers, artists, personalities and even nationally recognized journalists.

Here are a few of the most notable celebrities that have called The Wirral their home.

Paul Hollywood

famous the wirral
Source: Wiki Commons

Notorious Bake-Off Judge and celebrity chef Paul Hollywood was born in Wallasey in 1966.

Baking was in Hollywood’s blood: the son of a bakery proprietor, he went to school at The Mosslands School on the peninsula and studied sculpture at the Wallasey School of Art.

But the sculpting didn’t last long – Hollywood soon quit to start work as a baker.

After working for some time in York, Hollywood returned to Merseyside bakeries for a number of years. He then moved on  to become head baker at a number of iconic hotels including The Dorchester in London.

The TV baker is now famous for his role as a judge on The Great British Bake Off alongside Mary Berry and Prue Leith.

Fiona Bruce

famous the wirral
Source: Flickr | Andrew Campbell Photography

BBC News’ formidable Fiona Bruce has lived all over the world, including on The Wirral. Born in Singapore, she moved to Heswall in Merseyside and attended Gayton Primary School, before jetting off to the International School of Milan for a short period. She then went to secondary school in London and read French and Italian at Oxford University.

Bruce was the first female presenter of the BBC Ten O’Clock News, which she continues to present, alongside BBC Two’s Antique’s Roadshow.

Andrew Irvine

famous the wirral
Source: Wiki Commons | Christina Livingston

Andrew Irvine was an English Mountaineer who vanished during a failed British Everest Expedition in 1924.

Born in Birkenhead, and educated at Birkenhead School, he went on to study engineering at Oxford University where he joined the Mountaineering Club.

On 29 February 1924m Irvine set sail from Liverpool for the Himalayas on board the SS California, along with three other expedition members, including expert mountaineer George Mallory.

On 6 June, two of the expedition group attempted a summit climb of the tallest mountain in the world: George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. On the 8 June, they departed a two-man camp for the summit. They never reached their goal.

Nobody knows what happened to the pair, but they never returned to camp and died somewhere on the mountain. In 1999, Mallory’s body was discovered perfectly preserved by the harsh climates but Irvine’s body has never been found.

Paul O’Grady

famous the wirral
Source: Wiki Commons

One of the Wirral’s most well-loved exports, Paul O’Grady was born to a working-class Irish migrant family in Birkenhead in 1955.

O’Grady spent much of his childhood living in Higher Tranmere and attended St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School. During his early 20s, O’Grady worked a number of jobs in Liverpool, including as an assistant clerk at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court. The comedian then spent a number of years living between London and Liverpool, doing odd jobs.

While in London, Paul O’Grady’s drag act, Lily Savage, become renowned for ruthless take downs of audiences and fellow acts, bringing him renown and a TV appearance in Channel 4’s comedy show Viva Cabaret. From there, his career skyrocketed and in 2004 he began presenting the beloved The Paul O’Grady Show, an ITV daytime show.

Daniel Craig

famous the wirral
Source: Flickr | Discutivo

The current James Bond was born in Chester and raised on The Wirral Peninsula.

Daniel Craig attended Hoylake Primary School and Hilbre High School in West Kirby, before moving to Liverpool after his parents’ divorce.

Famous for movies including Casino Royale and Skyfall, Craig initially started acting after visiting the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool with his mother. At 16, he was accepted into the National Youth Theatre before moving to London to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Although he now lives in London, Daniel Craig retains links to the Merseyside region – he remains an avid Liverpool FC supporter and has been spotted at Anfield a number of times.

Wilfred Owen

famous the wirral
Source: Wiki Commons

One of England’s most renowned war poets spent part of his childhood in Birkenhead. Wilfred Owen, the writer behind Dulce et Decorum est and Anthem for Doomed Youth, was killed in action on 4 November 1918.

Owen was born in Shropshire but moved into lodgings in Birkenhead with his family after the death of his grandfather. He then periodically moved between the two areas throughout his childhood. Owen attended the Birkenhead Institute.

On 21st October, Wilfred Owen enlisted in the Arts Rifles Officers’ Training Corps and was later commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment.

Owen became famous for writing poetry that revealed the true horrific nature of war, at odds with the patriotic verses of other war poets like Rupert Brooke.

John Peel

famous the wirral
Source: Wiki Commons | Zetkin

Famous for BBC Radio 1’s ‘Peel Sessions’, Heswell-born John Peel was one of England’s best loved radio DJs.

Born as John Ravenscroft on The Wirral at Heswell Cottage Hospital in August 1939, Peel grew up in Burton. He didn’t become involved in radio until 1967 when he joined the offshore pirate radio station Radio London. He later joined BBC Radio 1 and became a renowned DJ who championed the underground music scene in the UK.

Peel never forgot Merseyside though, and at his second marriage to Shelia Gilhooly in London’s Regents Park he wore the Liverpool FC football colours, walking down the aisle to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. His children all carry LFC-based names as well: William Robert Anfield, Alexandra Mary Anfield, Thomas James Dalglish and Florence Vitoria Shankly.

Dixie Dean

famous the wirral

Everton’s iconic footballer Dixie Dean was born in a small house on Laird Street in Birkenhead on 22 January 1907.

Dixie became a household name in 1927/28 when he scored 60 goals in a single Football League season, establishing a record that has yet to be broken.

Born William Ralph Dean, the famous sportsman was known for his unassuming ordinariness that he retained until his final days.

Dixie attended Laird Street School, and grew up as an Everton supporter. He later went to the Albert Memorial Industrial School in Birkenhead, which was a borstal school. Although he hadn’t committed any crimes, the Dean family chose this school because of the football facilities on offer.

He later spent several years working for Wirral Railway, before being signed by Pensby United and then Tranmere Rovers.

Today, Dixie Dean is renowned in Liverpool as one of the best footballers to come from the Merseyside region and a luxurious hotel, celebrating his legacy, is being opened in the city centre as a tribute to his contribution to the beautiful game.

Harold Wilson

famous the wirral
Source: Wiki Commons | Allan Warren

Harold Wilson is the only British Prime Minister to hail from the Merseyside region. Born in Huddersfield in 1916, Wilson’s family moved to Spital on The Wirral when he was 14. Wilson was educated at The Wirral Grammar School for Boys.

The future politician did well enough at school to attend the University of Oxford. He remained at university after graduation, becoming one of the youngest Oxford dons of the century at the age of 21 and lecturing in Economic History.

In 1945, Wilson stood as a candidate in the constituency of Ormskirk and won his seat in a Labour landslide. He later moved to the seat of Huyton and served that constituency for 33 years until 1983.

In 1963, after rising through the ranks of the party, Wilson was made Leader of the Labour Party. In 1964, he won a general election and became Prime Minister, the youngest person to hold the office since Lord Rosebery 70 years earlier.

Wilson was best known as a social reformer, abolishing the death penalty and liberalizing abortion laws. He also reformed housing, education, pensions and the benefits system.

Shirley Ballas

famous the wirral
Source: Still from BBC One The Graham Norton Show

Strictly Come Dancing’s glamourous head judge Shirley Ballas is another born-and-bred Wirral celebrity.

Born in Wallasey, Shirley Barllas (nee Rich) began dancing at the age of 7 and started performing competitively a year later. During her illustrious career, she won the 1983 International Latin American Dance Championship and the 1984 UK Open Champions in Professional Latin.

She also won the 1995 International Latin American Dance Championship with her then husband Corky Ballas. In 1996, she stopped dancing competitively and turned to coaching and judging.

Ballas once name checked her beloved hometown on Strictly Come Dancing as she berated a contestant, remarking “I know I sound a little bit like a Nellie the Nagger from Wallasey”.


We hope you’ve enjoyed our exploration of the famous faces to come out of the Wirral. If you can think of anymore, make sure you let us know in the comments on Facebook! To keep up to date with developments on the Dixie Dean Hotel, like our Facebook page

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