Historicaleigh - The Tragic Tiller Girl

August 18, 2017 by Carole Mulroney

Back in my youth no Sunday evening would be complete without Sunday Night at the London Palladium on TV and the most constant of all the performers were the Tiller Girls, a troupe of dancers whose high kicks and precision timing defied believe. But they weren’t just a 50s/60s phenomenon, they had been going for years and one of them came from Leigh.

The Tiller Girls were formed by John Tiller in 1890 when he noticed the overall effect of a chorus of dancers was often spoiled by lack of discipline and he found that by linking arms On 1 October 1932 the Tiller Girls were booked to perform in a Tom Arnold review entitled ‘Walk this Way’ at the Nottingham Empire, and indeed the show went on under the strain of the Troupe knowing that a tragic accident had claimed the life of one of their number.

?Dorothy Lussignea was only 22 and lived with her parents (when not on the road) in Southsea Avenue, Leigh. ?

The afternoon of the Nottingham performance, Dorothy and her friend, Betty Rowe, and two young gentlemen  were returning from an afternoon out to Newstead Abbey when on their way back for the evening performance the car suddenly skidded on the greasy road.  The vehicle overturned  and Dorothy was pinned beneath it. No one else was hurt but the newspaper report says ‘the pluck of Miss Rowe can be better  imagined than described when it is explained that she went straight on to Nottingham after crawling out of the overturned car and appeared on stage at both the first and second performances.’   In fact the heading of the report was ‘TILLER GIRL’S AMAZING FORTITUDE IN NOTTINGHAM’.

?The inquest was also reported in the local newspaper. There was no explanation for why the car skidded and the driver felt his speed had not been excessive and he knew the road well, but nevertheless could not explain the accident.  Dorothy had been sitting in the front of the car and the ‘sunshine’ roof had been locked.  She was thrown through the ‘sunshine’ roof and trapped  by the top of the car and instantly killed.

?Dorothy never came back to Leigh, she was buried in Nottingham.