Former ‘Opportunity Knocks’ winner from Tameside passes away
Friday 14th October 2016 @ 14:31 by Adam Higgins
Ashton Dukinfield Health News

A Tameside actress and singer, who famously won the popular TV show, ‘Opportunity Knocks’ has sadly died aged 83.

Gwyneth Fleetwood, a lifelong resident of Ashton, recently passed away after a short illness.

Many people may remember Gwyneth from her performances in the pubs, clubs and masonic halls of Tameside, where she would often appear alongside her long-time friend and collaborator Vincent Burston.

Her greatest break in show-business came in 1971 when she won the televised talent show ‘Opportunity Knocks’ beating famous comedy double act ‘Little and Large’ on the way.

However, tragedy struck just a short time later as a particularly bad case of laryngitis left Gwyneth without her voice and unable to defend her crown.

Programme chiefs instead opted to bring back ‘Little and Large’, who went on to have a long and successful run on the show.

Speaking about the missed opportunity, Gwyneth’s daughter Tracy Myles said: “Mum always felt that she’d just missed out, she’d been very unlucky in her career. Big breaks would come along and then family commitments would stop her.

“She loved to sing, she loved to act and it was her life really, that’s what she did and that was her job, but it was also her passion. She just enjoyed entertaining people and making people happy.”

Sid Little, from Little and Large, remembers the time: “Gwyneth  won the show but got laryngitis so we came back the next week.

“I can’t remember much about her, just the name, she won it outright though,” he told us this week.

Further success on the small screen was to follow with parts in Coronation Street, Making Out and Dickins of London.

She appeared on Songs of Praise at the request of her friend, actress Kathy Staff, who was being interviewed on the show.

Kathy had requested Gwyneth sing the Lord’s Prayer, which she did, later releasing the recording as a single.

In her early 20s Gwyneth had helped record the jingles and links on radio recordings of the Morecambe and Wise Show.

This work led to her meeting her husband Roger Fleetwood who was in the Northern Dance Orchestra and employed by the BBC.

Her most recent performance was in ‘All The Small Things’ with Sarah Lancashire, where Gwyneth played one of the church choir members.

She worked with the Raymond Woodhead Singers and was also a lover of amateur dramatics, being a long time member of Oldham and Dukinfield’s Operatic Societies, having lead roads in The Sound of Music and the Merry Widow.

Gwyneth’s daughter Tracy admits she and her brother Robert had an “unconventional childhood” but says it was one that was always exciting:

“We got to see lots of famous people like Ken Dodd,” she said.

In a touching twist, the district nurses that looked after Gwyneth at home during her illness recognised her almost immediately, as she had sung at many of their weddings in previous years.

According to her son Robert, once during a Remembrance concert at Tameside Theatre the compere said: “The next Artist (Gwyneth Fleetwood) has put more smiles on the faces of people in this theatre than anyone else I know.”

Robert said: “Her voice was a true gift and one that I’m sure will be sadly missed by many people in the Tameside area.”

A church service is being held tomorrow (Friday) at 12noon at Christ Church, Ashton, followed by a wake at Ashton Cricket Club.