The Story of Pat Stewart, the Blackpool Belle in the Polka Dot Dress, 1951

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When Pat Stewart posed with her friend Wendy on the railings of the Blackpool promenade one blustery day in 1951, she had no idea that the subsequent photograph would become famous.

Pat Stewart became known as the girl in the spotty dress.

The photo, taken by Bert Hardy for the magazine Picture Post, has since become a hugely popular and cherished image, a carefree snapshot of a postwar world that has long since gone.

For much of her life, though, Pat had all but forgotten about the photograph. Then in 2006, the mystery of the girl in the Polka Dot dress surfaced when a woman called Norma Edmondson came forward after friends had shown her the picture.

Norma Edmondson with the picture taken by Bert Hardy in Blackpool in 1951.

Mrs Edmondson remembered being in Blackpool and recognized the dress and believed she was the girl in the photo. She even appeared on BBC’s The One Show to explain how she came to be at the centre of one of the most memorable images of 20th Century. But the one thing she couldn’t recall was the exact moment the picture was taken.

The story then took a twist when Pat came forward, after Mrs Edmondson’s appearance, to say that she was actually the girl in the picture. She vividly remembered the day Bert took the picture in Blackpool and had the original contact sheet to prove it. Mrs Edmondson admitted she had made an honest mistake and Pat was then invited on The One Show to claim the credit.

Pat Stewart holding a 1951 copy of the Picture Post that helped launch her career in showbusiness.

The story sparked a flurry of media interest that has prompted Pat to write her memoir. “I realized that my grandchildren knew nothing about this story and I wanted them to know about this part of my life.”

Her book, The Girl in the Spotty Dress, co-written with author Veronica Clark, charts her story from humble beginnings in Yorkshire, to showbusiness memories from the 1950s and that famous photograph.

The cover of the Picture Post showing the picture of Pat Stewart, right, at Blackpool Promenade in July 1951.

Pat was born in Featherstone into a hard-working, but poor, family. “My father was a miner and during the General Strike to make some money he did bare-fist fighting at a fairground,” she said.

When she was growing up her parents scrimped and saved to pay for her to have dance lessons. “Money was very tight and my mum pulled pea to help pay for my classes,” she said. “My dad took me to my first dance class when I was little, it was at a studio in the Crescent Cinema on Ropergate in Pontefract.”

At the age of 12 she was taken on by Lilyman’s Dance School in Leeds, which had a reputation for being one of the best dance schools in Yorkshire. “I used to get the bus from Featherstone to Leeds, it took about an hour and I would sit and eat my peas,” said Pat.

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