Seven famous people you might not know were born in Batley

Batley is the birthplace of many famous people - from singer-songwriters and novelists to rugby league players.

By Jessica Barton
Saturday, 30th July 2022, 5:00 pm
Retired professional rugby league player, Keegan Hirst.
Retired professional rugby league player, Keegan Hirst.

Although many of the famous people born in the town moved on to achieve great things, one thing they all have in common is the fact that all of their journeys started right here.

These are seven familiar faces who were born in the town.

Robert Palmer (1949-2003)

Actor Gordan Rollings.

Born in Batley in 1949, Robert Allen Palmer was well-known for being a singer-songwriter, musician and record producer.

Robert is well known for his three hit singles "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On", "Addicted to Love" and "Simply Irresistible".

Robert received a number of awards throughout his career, including two Grammy Awards for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance and an MTV Video Music Award.

He was also nominated at the Brit Awards for Best British Male Solo Artist.

Dr Patrick Steptoe and Dr Robert Edwards appear on BBC television to discuss their work on IVF on February 14, 1969.

Gordon Rollings (1926-1985)

Gordon Charles Rollings was an English actor who was born in Batley in 1926.

Gordon made an uncredited screen appearance in the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night, as well as featuring in both Superman films directed by Richard Lester.

He also made an appearance in TV shows Z-Cars and Play School before appearing in Coronation Street, in which he played the character of Charlie Moffitt.

Gordon later appeared in the BBC children's television show Jackanory, narrated The Herbs, and featured in an advert for John Smith's Bitter.

Robert Edwards (1925-2013)

Born in Batley in 1925, Sir Robert Geoffrey Edwards was a British physiologist and pioneer in reproductive medicine, and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) in particular.

Along with the surgeon Patrick Steptoe, and the nurse Jean Purdy, Robert successfully pioneered conception through IVF, which led to the birth of Louise Brown on July 25, 1978.

They founded the first IVF programme for infertile patients and trained other scientists in their techniques.

Robert was the founding editor-in-chief of Human Reproduction in 1986 and in 2010 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for the development of in vitro fertilisation".

Hugh Garner (1913-1979)

Hugh Garner was a British-born Canadian novelist who was born in Batley on February 22, 1913.

Hugh moved to Canada in 1919 with his parents, and was raised in Toronto, Ontario where he attended Danforth Technical High School.

He published his first novel, Storm Below, in 1949 but is more well known for Cabbagetown, his most famous book.

In 1963, he won the Governor General's Award for his collection of short stories entitled Hugh Garner's Best Stories.

Keegan Hirst (1988-present)

Keegan Hirst, who was born on February 13, 1988 in Batley, is a retired professional rugby league player who last played as a prop for Halifax in the Betfred Championship.

Keegan has also played for the Hunslet Hawks, the Dewsbury Rams, Batley Bulldogs, Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity.

After the abandonment of the 2020 Championship season, Keegan signed for a third spell with Batley but in October 2020 announced his retirement from the game.

In 2015 Keegan became the first British professional rugby league footballer to come out as gay.

David Kitson (1925-2002)

David Lees Kitson was an English cricketer who played 32 games, scoring 882 runs for Somerset between 1952 and 1954.

Although David was born in Batley, he was one of several Yorkshire League cricketers recruited by Somerset.

His highest score was an innings of 69 against Leicestershire in 1953.

David remained in Somerset, where he passed away in 2002.

John Brian Christopherson (1868-1955)

Born in Batley in 1868, John Brian Christopherson CBE was a British physician and a pioneer of chemotherapy.

John was best known for his work on tropical diseases, but he began his professional life as a surgeon and ended his career as a chest physician.

He was educated at Clifton College, Caius College, Cambridge, and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, at which he held the posts of house physician, house surgeon and demonstrator in anatomy following his graduation.

For his distinguished services to medicine he was awarded a CBE in 1919.