Born in Wigan, England, Major insisted that he was essentially self-taught as an artist. He actually studied at Wigan Art School between 1927–1932, and taught there between 1930-1950, and in 1952 founded the Wigan Arts Club.
Major established a reputation as a Lancashire artist. He drew cartoons for the Daily Mail and the Manchester Guardian. He shared exhibitions with his close contemporary L. S. Lowry.
Major became noted for his grim depictions of Wigan streets and factories, pictures of children, of lonely seascapes, of nudes and nightmare imaginations.