He was born in Sheffield, one of a family of eleven. When he was three they moved to Oldham where he spent the majority of his life. At the age of 14 he won a scholarship to the Oldham College of Art. He always wanted to become a professional artist but family poverty forced him to take jobs mainly in the construction industry.
When he was a young man he joined the Oldham Art Society and exhibited throughout the North of England.
In 2003, some fifteen years after his death, Manchester Art Gallery held a hugely successful exhibition of his work. It ran from 18th January - 11th May and attracted well over 100,000 visitors.