El Granadas and Peter

The history of a variety act.

Dorothy Croft was born on July 2nd 1928 to Walter and Margaret Croft.


The Croft family already consisted of  two older children, Eric and Irene. They had also lost another child, Frank, who had died suddenly at 2 and a half in 1927.


A late addition to the Crofts she grew up  in Blackpool where entertainment was king and where youngsters were encouraged to  take part in local shows either as dancers, ice skaters or swimmers. 


Dorothy and Peter—Folkestone 14th December 1965

Dorothy’s mother, Margaret (Madge) Harrison, had been drawn to Blackpool from her home town of Blackburn, Lancashire because of her swimming and diving abilities. She had won many diving events and appeared  in an aqua show in London called “Splash Me” before turning professional.  In Margaret’s  life she swam for England and had trained Romanian born Johnny Weissmuller (who later became Tarzan on film) to swim specialist strokes. Margaret Harrison came to Blackpool to give diving displays on the Central Pier, displays that culminated in her dressing in rags that were set alight and put out when she dived into the sea from the pier, a spectacular and amazing feat.  



Dorothy Skating at Blackpool Ice Rink 1940’s

It was after one such show that a sailor on leave took a particular interest in this fascinating spectacle and in particular the glamorous  lady diver.

Since there was only one entrance and exit to the pier it wasn’t too hard to ambush her  when she finished work. Everyday she came off the pier the sailor was there waiting for her and after much persuasion she agreed to go out with him on a date.


Margaret Harrison —  Lady Diver 1915

The family bought a house in the newly built  Morley Road, Marton in Blackpool for Ł500, a sum that seemed outrageous to the older members of the Croft family.

In the new house they settled down to family life and it was a surprise to both mother and father when Margaret became pregnant with Dorothy long after the other children had been born.     

The persistent sailor Walter and his lady diver Margaret

Before too long the couple were “courting” as it was know in those days and a few years afterwards were married with Dorothy’s older siblings, Eric and Irene (Reenie) and Frank  being born shortly afterwards.



However unexpected, Dorothy’s arrival was greeted with delight by Walter and Margaret although older sister Irene was less enthusiastic.


As she grew up, Dorothy took dancing lessons at the local dancing school and her mother helped her to become an accomplished swimmer.


She also became a very good ice skater, a skill that became useful when boys at the ice rink became annoying - a swift increase in speed would leave them behind. 

Walter and Margaret with young Dorothy

The dancing school in Blackpool supplied the girls for almost all the shows that took place in the town. Over the years Dorothy worked in most of the venues in Blackpool during the summer season and in Pantomime during the winter sometimes in other towns. The work was hard and demanding, but the youngsters in the shows had the energy and  commitment to give of their best and they did.


Dorothy in the pantomime Aladdin in 1945 at the Empire Theatre, Newcastle 

In 1946 Dorothy was in the show at The Opera House as a dancer. Meanwhile, at the Tower Circus Blackpool, the lead girl swimmer had become ill and was not able to appear.


The Blackpool shows would often help each other if they ran into difficulties and the call went out “was there a girl who could dance and swim”. As Dorothy had been trained as a swimmer by her swimming champion mother and she could dance, her name was put forward as a replacement. The Esther Williams style routines at the Tower Circus required just the right number of girls to complete the patterns and so Dorothy transferred to The Tower Circus from The Opera House.


That fateful and unlikely event led to her meeting the young Peter Granada (Peter Prentice) who was appearing with his family act for the season. The couple’s initial meeting was not promising when Peter spoke sharply to Dorothy because she had sat on the table where Peter was playing his Frank Sinatra records, he thought she would end up scratching his precious 78 discs. Since the gramophone belonged to Dorothy she was less than pleased at being chastised by this young man, however, as the season progressed the two got on well and began spending more and more time together.




Because of the nature of show business it is difficult to keep relationships afloat. After a few weeks or months the cast would split up and go to different theatres where there would be new people and perhaps new love interest. Everyone told them so.


But this was a loving partnership that was to overcome all these difficulties and lead to a successful marriage that has lasted nearly six decades.

The young Peter at about this time with Lila and Cecil


Lila was not keen on her son’s romance and did what she could to discourage it, even bringing a new girl, Silver Harbord into the act to block any possibility of Dorothy joining them. When Peter and Dorothy became engaged, Dorothy was dismissed from the show she was in. This was normal practice at the time, since the employers did not want their girls to be distracted from their work.


Anxious to get some form of employment, Dorothy called the Ice Show in Blackpool. After initial disinterest, the management gave her an audition when they found out she was a good ice skater with dancing experience. Entering the ice show was only at the cost of losing of another girl from the show, so Dorothy was not popular with the other  performers who felt sorry for the other girl.  


When it became inevitable that Peter and Dorothy were going to marry, Cecil’s wiser council prevailed and Lila accepted that Dorothy should join El Granadas. However, Lila was not going to make things easy for her new potential daughter in law.


Cecil’s strict practice regime of 2 hours practice a day (3 if someone did something wrong on stage) led to Dorothy swiftly learning to spin a rope and ribbon and ride a unicycle. El Granadas continued with this line up through the end of the 1940s and into the 1950s with girls recruited to “fill in” whilst Peter was in the army and Dorothy was having each of their 3 children.


Taking 3 children around from theatre to theatre eventually became untenable and so Peter and Dorothy left El Granadas to lead a more settled existence in Dorothy’s home town of Blackpool.


In some respects, El Granadas became 2 acts at this time as Peter and Dorothy still appeared as “Peter Granada and Dorothy” doing a similar, if somewhat smaller act at venues around the Blackpool area. This supplemented income whilst Peter tried to find some sort of career where he could use his unusual skills.


The breakthrough came when Peter became a cinema manager for Fylde Cinemas and then moved to local government as an Entertainments Manager.

Dorothy became a full time mother and later went on to have a career selling houses at which she became very skilled and in high demand.


Only once more did she join El Granadas when Cecil was hospitalised in 1966 and Lila was left trying to do the act by herself in Herne Bay for a number of weeks. It is a testament to Dorothy’s character that she dropped everything to help Lila when Lila had been so very difficult with Dorothy at the time she was with El Granadas. Today Dorothy lives in retirement with Peter in Leek, Staffordshire.

Dorothy today`

Dorothy and  Peter recently on a bus tour of London