Search for Thomas Burke relations

Tamsin Skempton, granddaughter of Leigh opera singer Thomas Burke
Tamsin Skempton, granddaughter of Leigh opera singer Thomas Burke

THE granddaughter of an opera star described by a famous composer as his favourite singer is searching for his relatives still living locally.

Tamsin Skempton is keen to meet relatives of Thomas Burke after coming across an article in the local press which described how his niece Vera Burke had helped name a pub in the town in his honour.

Tamsin, whose mum Jennifer Burke moved to London after marrying BBC newsreader Alan Skempton, said she had no idea Thomas still had other relatives living in the North West and is keen to meet Vera, who was living in Atherton when the Leigh pub was named in 2007.

Tamsin, from Wimbledon, said: “I stumbled across the article quite by accident and saw that Vera said she thought she was the only family member.

“That’s not the case as my sister and I both live in London and we’re his granddaughters, so I would very much like to meet her.

“It’s been quite difficult because both my parents died when I was quite young and you don’t ask questions at that age, and then when you get older and become more interested in family history people have passed away.”

Tamsin’s research has already brought to light some unexpected information about her fascinating family past. Her grandfather, who died in 1969, was one of the best-known opera tenors of his day.

His wife Patricia was a well-known actress, while Tamsin’s father was responsible for inaugurating the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

Tamsin said: “I knew about my grandfather’s singing career because my mum was incredibly proud of him, and somewhere there’s a picture of me sitting on his lap as a baby.

“However, we went to look at his gravestone recently and a member of staff said lots of people came to have a look at it.

“The epitaph on his grave is also Puccini’s comment about him that he never heard his music more beautifully sung.

Tamsin, who works as cabin crew for an airline, would be keen to make a trip to Leigh to meet any of Thomas Burke’s surviving relatives, anyone who can help should email her at or ring 01942 506261