FOR many years, within living memory, the centre of Worcester used to be entertained by the antics of a character born George Webb but better known by his nickname of Chicken George.

About mid-morning he would emerge into the High Street and prance around to the music of the buskers.

It was all fairly innocuous, if occasionally a bit annoying, and most took it in good heart.

The exception, if I remember rightly, being a classical violinist who took exception to George’s tomfoolery and confronted him, threatening to stick his bow where the sun don’t shine.

I believe the ruckus ended in a court case, although whether the musician was done for assault or George for dodgy dancing slips me.

Worcester News: PAINTING: George Webb (aka Chicken George) with one of the paintings of him in action.PAINTING: George Webb (aka Chicken George) with one of the paintings of him in action. (Image: Newsquest)

No one knows how the nickname Chicken George came about but common rumour was his erratic dancing reminded people of a pecking chicken and he was so well-known artists even included him in paintings when capturing Worcester scenes.

Rarely a parade or city centre street event went by without George putting in an appearance, welcome or not.

Chicken George was eventually summoned to Heaven to entertain the angels in 2004 at the age of 85 and his passing was just one more page turned in the history of Worcester’s street life.

For there were plenty of personalities who went before him.

Worcester News: DANCING: Chicken George and backing groupDANCING: Chicken George and backing group (Image: Newsquest)

Probably the most notable was Nobby Guy, who lived in the slum areas of Worcester’s St Andrew’s parish off South Quay in the early 1900s.

Same as George – who claimed to have fought in WW2 at Dunkirk and killed a man in armed combat - Nobby liked a drink, but unlike the diminutive George he was a powerful man who boasted, with some reason, that it took several policemen to drag him to the station.

In fact he was a saturation drinker and when in that state was always ready for a fight or for half a crown he would jump off Worcester bridge.

He believed it his divine right to lead any procession in the city, including the civic procession to the cathedral on Mayor’s Sunday.

Crowds lining the High Street would wait for the cry “Here’s Nobby!” and Nobby would appear at the front, always dressed in a light suit wearing a straw boater and white pumps.

Worcester News:

Considering that right behind him was the Chief Constable plus six of his bobbies, it was remarkable no effort was made to stop him.

Likewise magistrates ordered publicans not to serve Nobby, but they were afraid to refuse.

For a while he actually gave up his aggressive drinking and joined the Salvation Army, where he marched with the band and even carried the banner.

However when a new captain joined the Army in Worcester and ordered Nobby to give up his pipe, a quirk his predecessor had tolerated, it proved a bridge too far.

Worcester News: GONE: Houses in Copenhagen Street part of St Andrew’s parish. Felled during slum clearance between the two world wars.GONE: Houses in Copenhagen Street part of St Andrew’s parish. Felled during slum clearance between the two world wars. (Image: Newsquest)

Nobby left the Sally Ann and returned to his life of dissipation and a pauper’s funeral.

Among other characters of Worcester’s street life in the early 20th century were Hallelujah Lily and Dancing Dinah, both of whom were brought up in better circumstances but had been brought down by the demon drink.

Lily sang grand opera with a voice of exceptional range, while Dinah would dance beautifully, as befitting someone who had appeared on stage.

A pity she wasn’t around a hundred years later, she might have honed Chicken George’s technique. Doubtful though.