An eight-year search for Leyland Market’s mystery man may now be over.
Attempts had been made to trace the identity of the man whose near-100-year-old photograph was used for the construction of the iconic bronze statue as part of a £300,000 regeneration project in the town centre.
Now, after the name Walt Barnes was suggested, confirmation is being sought.
The idea for the statue was taken from a 1920s photograph that captures Leyland Motors workers leaving the former North Works site, what is now the site of Leyland Market.
The black and white picture shows hundreds of men in flat caps, suits and overalls coming out of the site after a busy day.
The statue is a reminder of the town’s rich industrial past, along with the Leyland Motors clock, the Leyland Wheel, and the Centurion Tank.
Back in 2011 the Guardian reported how a £100 reward had been offered to identify the person behind the statue.
The incentive was put forward by solicitor Derek Forrest, of Solicitor Direct, Hough Lane.
He said: “The statue has been a great addition to Leyland, making it a focus point that will hopefully attract more shoppers.
“It’s a great shame that the man has not been identified – he may not even have known his photograph was taken.”
Derek said: “It is unlikely his family know he was the inspiration for the feature.
“He is very much a working man, which is good to see.”
He added; “The man is shown going towards Towngate so he may have lived in that area – or may have just been off to the pub.”
This week Derek said: “If it is Walt it’s marvellous. We might even manage a little plaque of who it really was and put a little biography on it.”
He added; “I’m very pleased. If we can find out about the guy - a living, breathing Leyland, like we all are.”
As regards the reward, he joked: “I must have been flush then.”
But he said he supposed the reward still stood - “providing they don’t charge interest!”
Leyland Market put out an appeal and posted a message on the Leyland Memories public Facebook group: “We have had a suggestion that his name is Walt Barnes from MTR possibly from the Chorley/Adlington area, does anyone know any more?”
Leyland has been a thriving market town since the 18th Century. In November 2000 Leyland market moved from Towngate to its new location.
The £300,000 regeneration project to revamp the area around Hough Lane and gateways into the town aimed to celebrate Leyland’s manufacturing heritage and boost trade.
A second phase in the make-over was revealed with the unveiling of the bronze statue of a Leyland Motors worker (pictured) at the newly-installed North Works gates on Hough Lane.
Other elements to the regeneration scheme included the restoration of the Leyland clock on Churchill Way, the siting of a Leyland-built Centurion tank off Flensburg Way and new benches, flower boxes and street lighting in Hough Lane.