Obituary: Peter Charles Woolley 1941-2016

On the 25th June 2016 my life changed forever. My dad died. He was one of my best friends, one of the few people who would tell me things straight, a man who made me laugh every time I saw him and the person who has quietly supported me throughout my life, through good times and bad. He’s gone and I’ll never get over it. Here is the obituary I wrote for him.

Peter Woolley passed away peacefully at his home in Didsbury on 25th June 2016. He leaves his daughter Jane, her husband Matthew and grandson Benjamin, and his son David, his wife Lisa and grandson Joseph.

Peter was born in Ladybarn to Nellie and Bill Woolley. His father died in the 1960s and Peter was a devoted son, visiting his mother every day until her death in 2007.

Peter was 18 when he set up in business in Salford as a printer, having served his time as an apprentice in Heaton Moor. He then moved the business to School Lane in Didsbury, and finally to the current premises on Barlow Moor Rd in 1970 where he became a well-known and popular figure in Didsbury.

In his youth Peter was a keen and accomplished sportsman. He was Captain of the Burnage rugby team, a surprisingly talented basketball player and also a wrestler. Peter was a bodybuilder and for a period of time held an unofficial bench press record, as well as being something of a mentor for the younger members of the gym.

Peter Woolley
Peter Woolley

Following the birth of Jane and David, Peter decided to pursue his burgeoning interest in magic and joined the Order of the Magi in 1978, eventually becoming President in 1993. At his first meeting Peter met the man who was to be his friend for many years, Max Jacobson. Doug Henning sparked his interest in illusions and with the help of his brother-in-law David he built some props and spent several years performing in clubs, theatres and small venues around Manchester. Peter was a naturally funny man with a gift for comic timing and often had people crying with laughter.

Due to popular demand Peter eventually stopped performing entirely and put his efforts into mentoring and developing young performers including Tony Stevens, Alan Firth, Phillip Partridge and the man who was to become his unofficial second son, Mike McClean.

Peter Woolley
Peter with close friend and comedian Mike McClean

Thursday nights at Pete’s house were almost legendary, with both Jane and David recalling being dragged downstairs to form an impromptu audience for the performers and there being an atmosphere of supportive camaraderie.

In 2002 Peter left the Order of the Magi and joined a new magic society, The Manchester Circle of Magicians. At the first meeting Peter was elected President and thereafter became an Honorary Life Vice President of the MCM. Peter will be remembered as a great supporter of magic in general and the MCM in particular. He was a great mentor to many budding magicians and had a wicked sense of humour.

In 2010 Peter welcomed two grandsons to the family and in 2013 retired from his printing business, (passing over the reins to his son-in-law Matthew) to become a professional grandparent. Typically, Peter loved to make Joseph and Benjamin laugh and did tentatively introduce them to some magic tricks. Balloon animals were a speciality.

Peter Woolley

Peter enjoyed his retirement and relished the chance to catch up with close friends; going out for regular curry nights, comedy evenings, Monday magic nights, popping across the road for a brew and short breaks away to Pickering in Yorkshire.

He was a popular and well liked figure. He had a deeply ingrained and bone dry sense of humour, a strong work ethic, he believed in honesty and he surrounded himself with people he respected and admired. Peter was very much a self-made man, one of life’s gentle eccentrics and the world will have a lot less laughter in it without him. He will be greatly missed.

Peter Woolley
Peter Charles Woolley 11th January 1941 – 25th June 2016