Wednesday, September 19, 2018

HMS PINAFORE: the last mystery ... finally solved

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It’s D for Departure Day minus 1 ½. My beloved Winter Palace has been stripped bare of all my personal belongings, and is looking rather lonesome. Five big wheelie boxes are waiting to be transported to the basement, where they will reside till I return next autumn. A bit sad, but last year I left all sorts of stuff for the enjoyment of the summer guests and half of it ‘walked’.

So here I was, at midday, having been massaged, and haircut, and … surrounded by two bottles of bubbly, one bag of frozen broad beans, four bananas, some suspiciously elderly looking turkey, two eggs, half a onion, one blood sausage … and, of course, my computer. Well, the computer should take me through to what likes being a slightly odd dinner time … so whom shall I tackle this afternoon?

Well, my mind was made up for me. My dear friend Elizabeth wanted some help with one of her ancestors, and, on my way there, I wandered into Gilbert-and-Sullivan land … fatal!

HMS Pinafore.Well, we know all about the folk who created the principal roles, don’t we? I’ve even ‘done’ Fred Clifton, Jessie Bond and Harriet Everard this year. So, who is there left who is still a puzzle? Why, ‘Mr Dymott’. Bob Beckett, the carpenter’s mate. Always just Mr Dymott. No first name, no past, no future … Well, he has all of those things as of today. Here we go.


Aeneas Joseph Dymott was his full name, and like most of the Dymotts in Britain, he hailed from Hampshire. He was born in Southampton, the son of James Dymott, a tailor (d Broad Street 16 September 1863), and his wife Sarah née Frith (d Albion Place 6 July 1854) who can be seen in 1841 living in Parsley’s Court, French Street, with Nancy (b 12 September 1818, Mrs Henry Brice), Julia Mary (d 17 December 1885) and our lad. The girls would go on to be schoolmistresses, Aeneas established himself as a woodcarver.

Well, that was his day job. But young Mr Dymott had a big bass voice and when he wasn’t carving, he sang. But before I spot him singing, I spot him breeding. He had daughter, Julia Frost Dymott (1853), by a young lady named Eliza Frost, from Sunderland, married her four years later when a second daughter, Eliza Nancy, arrived, fathered a Mary in 1858, an Aeneas Frank in 1860 (replaced by another in 1862), and lost his wife when she was but 35. He would quickly remarry, one Ann Cress[e]y, daughter of a carpenter from Templecoombe, Somerset, and have yet another daughter, Celia (Cecilia Annie) …

But, by this time, Mr Dymott, installed with his family at 4 Hanover Place, was only carving wood part time. He was part of the male ensemble at Evans’s famous Supper Rooms (1863, with Messrs Brady, Whitwell, Bamford, Smith, J Hogan, Godden, Way). Evans’s wasn’t often covered by the press, so I don’t know when he began and when he ended, but the vocalists tended to stay, and I see him again in 1868, as ‘second ie low bass’ with Messrs Whitwell (baritone), Barrett, Ball (tenor), Walton, J Hogan (baritone), Smith and Matt Cooper, intoning ‘The Old Church Bell’ to the chop and porter male audience.
But between times, he had been seen further afield. In 1867, I see him as basso soloist (‘Down among the dead men’) at both the Canterbury Hall – with Emily Soldene and Alfie St Albyn, no less – and at the Oxford, singing solo in a selection from The Ruins of Athens. I suspect there were many, many more such, unrecorded occasions. In 1871, he (with Hogan) was on the programme at Store Street Rooms for the concert of George Allen, bass soloist at the Philharmonic music-hall. And in 1877 he went on the musical stage. The occasion was the (vanity) production of a Macbethish ‘opera’ entitled Biorn of which the details can be read in my British Musical Theatre Volume I. Its cast was as unusual as its text, and our Aeneas was featured alongside the author’s amateur wife Mrs Fitzinman Marshall and the indifferent Italian baritone, Mottino (very briefly of the Carl Rosa) as the Norwegian thane and his bloody wife. Gerard Coventry and what seems to have been the young ‘Giulia Warwick’ were part of the wreckage alongside some Italianate names which were probably phony.

Giulia, as we know, went in to play in The Sorcerer. I wonder if Aeneas was in that chorus. He was nearly fifty, and in the next census he would describe himself as ‘woodcarver and chorus singer’. But for HMS Pinafore a real bass was needed for the glee, and so our hero got the part that would make us, 150 years later, remember and write about him.

But, please, Mr Dymott did not come from nowhere. By the time of Pinafore he’d been known as a low bass singer in the Covent Garden area for at least fifteen years.

The future is not so happy. When the split happened at the Opera Comique, Dymott chose to go with the money men, and moved to the Imperial and the Olympic productions of Pinafore. If he was looking for security, he backed the wrong team. But it didn’t really matter. He played in Pinafore, in the succeeding Marigold, filled in his 1881 census papers, and weeks later died. Aged 51.

Ann remarried, in 1887, a groom by the name of Thomas Stokes. I see that Eliza Nancy died aged 60, unmarried, and that Ce[ci]lia Annie became Mrs John Joseph Day, and had five children. Aeneas junior (‘sculptor, woodcarver’) appears to have lived to 1940.

Bother Victorian attitudes! I would love to know more about the early music-halls and Evans’s in particular … but, no. The press covered the Italian opera, Madame or Mademoiselle Telle ou Telle’s concert … but not Evans’s Supper Club. Which didn’t need the press to find its audience. But, sadly, left us with little knowledge of what was sung (as opposed to eaten, drunk, ruded and blarnied) there …

Anyhow, can we henceforth give Aeneas his proper name … and, is that the Pinafore originals tidied up now?









Saturday, September 15, 2018

When the fat lady sings! And brings out a star ..

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Yesterday I ran into this Bristolian photo from the early 20th century. Laurie’s Juveniles. Never heard of them. Amateur? Professional? Ephemeral? Acrobats? Concert party? Music-hall act? And who is the stout madame. Ah, ‘Carrie Laurie’s Juveniles’. So she is, doubtless, Carrie Laurie, or sometimes Lawrie (and thus, doubtless, of another name altogether).


Well, I had a wee scout about, and goodness me! Definitely professional, anything but ephemeral, not acrobats, but everything else. The Carrie Laurie troupe of young performers (usually 3m 4f, plus a little-boy comic) played the halls for some twenty years, from 1900 on, to, mostly, excellent reviews, sometimes topping the bill alongside known performers. And the ranks of the little players, obviously ever-changing, turned out a few to-be-well-known players, including a couple, good heavens!, with tenuous links to myself.

So, first of all, who was Carrie? Well, she was born Caroline Eliza Dodge, in Christchurch, Southwark, in 1867, one of the children of a Bristolian couple, Edward Dodge, painter (houses, I suspect, later a gasfitter), and his wife Sarah Ann née Taylor. There they nearly all are at 37 Price’s Street, Christchurch, in the 1871 census: Edward, Sarah, Mary Louisa, Edward H, Walter (b 17 January 1863; d 1928), Caroline .. eldest sister Sarah Ann (Mrs Charles Stichbury) has departed. By 1881 mother, father, Walter and Caroline are living at 32 Windsor Terrace, Bec[k]ton, Essex, with Mrs Mary Louisa Edwards’s baby …

And, not long after that, Carrie went on the stage. I see her first at Christmas 1884, playing in pantomime at Exeter. In 1886, she made it to a London stage in pantomime at the Standard. In 1889, she went on tour with George Fife’s company, playing the title-role in Aladdin up-to-date and alongside Ramsey Danvers in the famous comedy Turned Up. And some time in there Carrie stumbled. There was, on the bill, both at the following Leeds pantomime, and in her surrounding music -hall dates, a comedy-duet act named ‘Rhodes and Conl[e]y’ ‘the Irish Sunbursts’. They’d been round for a few years (1881-1898), so Alfred Rhodes must have been a little older than Carrie. Anyway, Carrie dallied and the result was a little ‘Beatrice Ann[ie] Rhodes or Dodge’ born in Dublin 15 June 1890. Carrie and Alfred had been on the bill at the Scotia, Glasgow a fortnight earlier!



Plump and pleasing Carrie, with her good singing voice, doesn’t seem to have stuck around Alfred thereafter. I see her covering Britain as a singer in the halls, and in pantomime, visiting South Africa in 1898. One little snippet says she ‘toured with Henry Irving’. I must have missed that. Anyway, she had a perfectly good career of fifteen years at not-the-top-level -- in 1900 I see her at the Balham Music Hall – before she changed direction. She began her juvenile troupe.


 I first see them out at Brixton, Portsmouth (‘Laurie’s Juveniles, in Kindergarten sketch of mirth and music’) and Leeds in November-December 1900, then straight into the Holborn Royal and Gatti’s on the Christmas Bill, playing a sketch with songs and dances under the title The Kindergarten. Kindergarten would serve them many years, varied by such pieces as the Vokee’s famous Belles of the Kitchen and The School Outing..


Of the few photos I have been able to exhume of the troupe, I think (judging by the size of Carrie’s girth) that this is probably the earliest.


Sadly, the names of the children aren’t mentioned, but several sometime members of the troupe did make adult careers and, of them, I know a little. I thought the 1901 census might help, but it finds Carrie at home at 17 Lambeth Road with just one ‘Thomas Holmes, music hall agent’, for company. (The family historians, who don’t differentiate between ‘Wife’ and ‘Concubine’, reckon this was the below-mentioned Mr Wray).



However, in 1911, the company is playing Birkenhead, and their digs lists in full the names, ages and home towns of the ‘Juveniles’ who are accompanied by Carrie, Beatrice (now 20) and Mr John Charles Wray ‘theatre manager’ (b Yorks 29 June 1847; d Teignmouth 4 July 1923, she had been co-respondent in his divorce) and Ruth Miller (dresser b Barking). Here is the list (with a few annotations).

Ethel May CLARKE 16 b Poplar
Jessie Eliza Rosina NOONE 15 b Battersea 6 July 1895 daughter of Augustus Edward Noone, m 16 December 1923 John Frank PERKINS; died 152 Ribblesdale Rd, Wandsworth 18 November 1979
Violet WILSON 14 b Birmingham
Bloomah Elizabeth LEVY 14 b Stepney 
Lilly KIRK 14 b Woolwich 
Leonard Lloyd LORRIMAN 15 (b Nottingham 4 January 1896; d Weston super Mare 1943) son of John Elijah Baddeley Lorriman (d 1942 a 78) and Kate Elizabeth née Bryan, stationary engine driver/lace jennier. C11 Father works in a cotton factory, 
John William BUTLER 15 Walthamstow (b West Ham ApQ 1895)
William MOISE 14 b St Helier seems to have been the son of a Jersey hairdresser of the same name
Alfred CRAWLEY 11 b Sheffield

Maybe some of these are in these later pictures. As you can see, I haven’t really been able to follow up the what-became-of of the little troupe. Except in a couple of cases. For this list includes one name which would (when changed!) become very well known on the 20th century stage and screen, and one which would become similarly well-known by association/marriage. And yes, to both of those I, in the next generation, have my wee link.


First, Alfred Ernest Crawley (11 August 1899; d 1985). He joined the company in 1909 to take the part of the little boy comic in the red wig whose comicalities were – whoever had played him, from the start -- the highlight of the performance. As an adult, Alfred changed his name to ‘Roy Barbour’, of whom Wikipedia will tell you all, and his son, Peter Barbour and granddaughter, Sue Barbour, came into my life when I cast London’s Barnum. They would be the first folk  hired and the backbone of our company.

Then young master Lorriman. Len was one of the sons of a Nottingham family. His career, it seems, ended early, but then his younger brother, Francis (1898-1967) joined up, and he proved much more durable. He changed his name to Frank Laurie, married the singer and (later) famous comedienne, Gladys Morgan, and stayed in the business for many years. I see it suggested that they wed at 16. Not so, they were married at Bristol in 1923: fully 24-5 years old. And the next year Joan Lorriman was born (b Bristol 26 January; d Worthing 16 August 2018). When I was a minor member of The Black and White Minstrels, Joan (Mrs Bertram Frederick Hollman) was lead soprano with one of the Robert Luff companies.


The internet tells me that the radio and concert baritone, ‘Mark Raphael’ (b Whitechapel 7 April 1900; d Croydon 1988), was at some stage a Laurie Juvenile – maybe under his real name of Harris Furstenfeld – and there is whole biography devoted to him which may give more tips. One Ernest Alfred Nicholls is also quoted as having performed with Carrie, and a certain ‘Jimmy Lynton’ otherwise Charles Parsons as well. I don’t know him nor his grandchild who is an English politician named Tony Blair.

The only other Laurie Juve whom I have pick up on is a little madam by name Charlotte Walkingham (b 1897), daughter of a deceased bricklayer and a paper sorter, from Hull. She was had up, in 1914, for stealing handbags, and thereafter vanishes from my ken.

Carrie’s activities were covered occasionally in the press: ‘Miss Laurie and her little charges reside in a large 14-roomed house when in London, at Brixton. One large room contains a piano and organ, and is set apart for practises, another accommodates the dressmaker, who makes all the children's wardrobes for the stage, and another large apartment is used for dressing and making up, which is all done before leaving the house to go to business, to which the kiddies are conveyed in a pair-horse omnibus. Miss Laurie's splendid stage experience admirably fits her for the work of training the young idea. She studied singing and voice production under the tuition of Signor [Albert] Visetti, and toured England and America with the late Sir Henry Irving. She also played several seasons under the management of Mr Willie Edouin, and has appeared as principal boy in many of the leading pantomimes’.

Yes, well, a tad ‘publicity’, but the Brixton bit is true enough. 16 St John’s Road. Fourteen rooms? Wow! I see her there in 1904, so she must have already garnered a few shekels.

Carrie died in harness, on 2 May 1921, at 31 Christchurch Rd, Tulse Hill. Still officially single (in spite of what the family historians say!), and possessed of 3000L. With her, died the Juveniles troupe, whose day was past and whose quality, it seems, had withered.

Beatrice married civil servant William Seymer Whitcher and died at 9 Old House Garden, Twickenham 21 December 1957. Her will gave her name as ‘Rhodes’. I wonder what happened to him. Oh, I suspect her of being the older and heftier ‘Juvenile’ in this photo from … when?


Some of the children seem to be in several of the photos …  but, alas, none are dated ...

Any more folk out there whose grandparents were Carrie Laurie Juveniles ..?











Thursday, September 13, 2018

Baranowski, or the Stonemason of Harborne. A sad tale ...

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Well, today was meant to be packing up day. But in my m(e)andering yesterday, I bumped into Mr Elisha Mander of 29 Bull Street and 4 Hall street, Handsworth, Birmingham. Leather case manufacturer, photographic and jewel case maker, employing 18 men and 50 women and children ... But Mr Mander was also a photographer. I see him at it way back in the early 1850s, though I don't think I've bumped into his work before.

There were just two photos bearing his imprint, here, under my eyes. And labelled! Very cryptically, but something to go on! 'Mr Mitton' with a little girl and, yes, 'Mrs Mitton' with a baby. So I thought, well, maybe, just maybe, I can sort them out. And guess what, I think I have.




The first step was to forget 'Mitton'. The name is clearly 'Milton'. And we're in Birmingham, and Mr Mander is at 29 Bull Street. Which seems to house, also, Mr Marris's furniture and carpets. So these pictures were taken sometime in the 1860s or the 1870s. I reckon early 1870s. So what more simple than to hie me to the 1871 census and find a young family named Milton, maybe with a little girl in tow.

Bullseye. There's only one that comes near qualifying, and it hits the target absolutely. I think I am right in saying that we have here Mr Thomas Milton, stonemason (b Cheltenham 1847), his wife Eliza née Harris (b Birmingham c1848), their 2 1/2 year old daughter Sarah Ann Emily (b Oxford 1869), and their infant son, Ernest Harry (b Birmingham 1870).

That's what a 2 1/2 year-old looks like, isn't it? Or is it? And Ernest was born at the very end of 1870 ... so it looks as if our photos come from 1871.

The stonemason, his wife and children seem to have lived their lives quietly ... but the ending was not to be a happy one. In the 1881 census, Thomas is alone, a boarder in someone else's house. Little Ernest is farmed out on Mrs Milton senior, a church cleaner, who still has two of her own sons at home. Sarah Ann, I cannot find. Nor Eliza. But she turns up the following year. In the churchyard. I wonder why ... childbirth?

Because there was a third child. Minnie. Born in Birmingham in 1873. And died there in 1879, aged six. 1873? Maybe it's Minnie and not Ernest who is the baby in our photo. Making the parents 26-7. And that would allow Sarah Ann to be more than 2 1/2. More like four. Yes? You who know about babies, tell me. It feels more comfortable to me. So why did Ernest, then, get left out of the photoshoot? Is there another photo lurking somewhere?

I get a bit lost now. In 1891, I can find only Sarah Ann, working as a domestic servant in a schoolmaster's house in Edgbaston, before she marries, on Christmas Day George Henry Cutler, saddletree-maker. Ernest is still with granny, in Great Colmore Street, and has begun his lifelong work as a bookbinder. He, too, would marry: Rose Broughton. But where is father? On Sarah Ann's marriage certificate (she is also of Great Colmore Street) he is listed as 'stonemason' and it doesn't say 'deceased'. Yet it is Rose Broughton and a Frederick Milton who are the witnesses. And when Rose marries Ernest (always of Great Colmore Street) he still not noted as deceased. But Rose's father is witness, and no Milton.

Well, Sarah Ann and Ernest carried on the family. Sarah had a daughter and two sons, all of whom wed and one of whom seems to have emigrated to America. Ernest had a son, George Edward Milton ('high pressure boiler operator) who married in his turn ... and, well, I didn't intend to follow the family down to the present day, but it was kind of easy, so I did. Both Sarah Ann's and Ernest/George Edward's branches still sprout merrily ...

And if Andrew and Christopher Baranowski and their children, down in Welsh Wales, and the offspring (if any) of Doris Florence and Joseph Bedford, Thomas William Edward Milton and his wife Eileen née Roberts, Mrs Mary Buena Shephard, Alfred I E and Inez Milton, want to see what their ancestors looked like ... well, here they are!  And, perhaps, in return they could tell me what exactly happened to Thomas, and why Eliza died at 34 ...

Photos courtesy of another grand e-bay shop: Music-Ad World. To which I am returning now to revel in the other goodies to be found there.







Wednesday, September 12, 2018

M(e)andering in South Australia ...

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I’m in a state of pre-departure from my Winter Palace (well, winter is theoretically over), so I’m doing a smidgin of tidying and washing, and having a laze. And whereas other folk might watch television (mine hasn’t been turned on for five months, hope it still works) or read a book, I, less passively, have a little wallow in the past.

Well, today e-bay didn’t put up anything I fancied in the New Zealand department – just more scenic wonders and more maoris, neither of which are meat for my game – so I wandered, a little aimlessly, to the e-bay shop of ‘roui.kari’. He of the disappearing Christchurch lady. It’s a splendid site, with lots of fascinating pictures, and sure enough, there was one which jumped up and grabbed me.

Adelaide, South Australia. A chap called Will Sowden with splendid moustaches. He was labelled ‘Aunt Edith’s husband’.


And, as I more or less expected, on the next page was a photo of ‘Aunt Edith’...


This should be easy. Love him or pick on him, William John Sowden, newspaperman, was a ‘personality’ in South Australia. In 1918, he was knighted. Sir William!


But hang on, his wife wasn’t ‘Edith’. Neither of his wives. Odd. Yet there was the marriage record: William John Sowden and Edith Long. 1897. Hmm why so late? Daughter of Joseph Mander Long. No such person. All the signs pointed to false form filling in, and the answer seemed obvious. Edith was Mrs Long and this was a second marriage. And so it proved. And once I’d cleared the irrelevant knightly newspaperman out of the way, all went smoothly.

Aunt Edith was born Edith Mander in Norwood, 2 January 1862, the daughter of Joseph Mander ‘of the waterworks’ (1819-1892) and his wife Eleanor née Ennis (1821-1896). And she had three elder sisters, and four surviving brothers. She wed Charles Long (1856-1930) ‘accountant’ at Port Elliot 21 April 1879, lived at Glen Osmond, Parkside and Evandale, divorced him (on her petition, for ‘adultery and desertion’ he’d been shacked up with his niece-by-marriage for the last five years!) 2 May 1893, and re-wed, our Will Sowden (d Black Forest Adelaide 21 December 1934) on 30 June 1897.

Now, I was in luck here, because the modern Mander family has some good (but not infallible) family researchers in its ranks and, more importantly, some photos which it shares with us (I wonder why they let these ones get away!). So courtesy of the family, here are the four sisters. Undated, but evidently pre-1909 and Edith’s death. Keturah (the dark one), Annie (the grey hair), Edith and Harriett Elizabeth (the plump Mrs William Scottney Turbill, blacksmith).


Is there more? I think so. The ‘Auntie Edith’ photo has ‘Pa’s sister’ inscribed on its verso. Well, three of the sons went to early graves, so it’s got to be Joseph George Mander (1847-1931). Who, with the assistance of his wife ‘Kitty’ (née Fletcher) had four sons and four daughters … Ada (who died at 18), Archie, Fred, Catherine, Joseph, ill-fated Hilda, Harriet, Peter (died as an infant) …

Rundle Street, Adelaide
I dug a little further at ‘roui.kari’. And bingo! Archie’s fiancée. Mrs Morrisey (widow). Also photographed in Rundle Street, which seems to have been populated entirely by photographers. Archibald John Mander, draper (b Norwood 23 May 1873; d 16 Katherine Street, Fullarton Estate 4 January 1932). But he died a Benedict. Sorry Mrs Morrisey.


There are a few more Adelaide photographs in roui.kari’s store. I reckon at least some of them come from my same source, because someone who likes writing on photos (like my mother!) has written ‘who?’ on two of them. A pair of children, a venerable gent, and three pretty ladies. Here they are.






Family? Friends? I wonder where and if they fit in. The family has provided pictures of the two youngest sisters, poor Hilda, who survived an illegitimate baby and died bearing her first legitimate one, and Harriet. They look, to start with, to be of a more swarthy breed than the fair damsels above. Well, Mander is a Jewish surname and the family includes a couple of Levis and frequent Josephs...



Ah, well … but hang on, what’s this? A carte from another dealer, toughie12. Taken by Bond of Rundle Street … There I DO see a family resemblance! But how would a Mander photo end up in America. Toughie12 has had the goodness to include the verso of the card on his entry: it is desperately blank. Not even a ‘who?’. Ah well. You can’t win ‘em all.


Oh, you know those four sweet maidenish-looking old ladies in the family photo? Maidenish old ladies be damned. They’d been round the park. If Edith got through two marriages without children, Keturah (‘Till’) had two marriages (Barlow and Thyer) and produced an Edith May and an Arthur Herbert by the first and two sons and a daughter by the second. Her brother Herbert had also married into the Barlow family. Annie too had her two husbands (Williams, then Miller) and half-a-dozen children … so there must be someone out there who would love these photos …


Get on to ‘roui.kari’ before they vanish!

















Tuesday, September 11, 2018

I remember, I remember ... the place where I was born ...

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19 Palliser Road, Mount Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand.

On the ridge of that hill in the background. Or .. wait a minute ...

We're on the big number two bump. Opposite Mr Hinge's plunging pine forest.



It was a dear old house. Clapboard and corrugated iron, with a dear little turret that John and I deemed terribly smart. And swarming with borer. It was great fun to stick a compass down the holes ...  It was built on the side of the hill, and had, on the next level up, a grand lawn and garden, with a big taupata hedge and a summer house which only served to breed wetas ...

Dad, when he wasn't running Wellington Technical College grew a cornuopia of veggies -- I remember the broad beans, the spinach, the gooseberries -- We tried chooks, but the rats got them. He built a sandpit for we two boys, but our main joy there was squashing the slaters and huhu bugs that invaded it.

Oh dear, what lucky lads we were. What a wonderful childhood. I think I only made to run away from home twice, and I giggle to remember what I packed into my kiddie suitcase. I got half way up the road and remembered it was tea time...

We left Wellington when I was 10 and John 6 ... father's big promotion meant we removed to Richmond, Nelson ...  but as I age, the fondness for no19 returns ...  I'm sure that, in New Zealand there are some photos...


Canterbury's Women: HOKITIKA TO HOLLYWOOD!

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I didn’t realise I was opening a can of fireworks. After starting my little series of ‘Canterbury's women’ with Alice Saxton, I was cruising around looking for a second lady to ‘play with’ and … well, I found several nice looking ladies photographed by C19th Christchurch studios, but alas! always with no clue whatsoever as to their identity.

 

Sometimes there’s just a smidgin of a clue. I honed in on this one, because my mother’s maiden name was Welsh, but when I looked again, the item had been withdrawn. I wonder why.



(PS two days later she reappeared!)


So, I looked into the photographer, Nelson K Cherrill. Globe-trotting Mr Cherrill only pitched camp for five years (1876-1881) in Cashel Street, Christchurch, before scooting off back to England and Europe, so it is surprising that there are so many of his snaps around. And here was one with a name! Alice Rose Eyton. Should be easy enough to find. Oh! And look, her little brother, Cecil Robert, too.



Little did I know, when I started to investigate, that there were a good few other brothers and sisters (so, where are their photographs?), heaps of tales – from suicide to murder, to fraud, to – horror – rampant journalism and to showbiz – and I guess I had better start this from more or less the beginning. I’m sure I’m not the first person to do this: maybe someone else has done it before and better. But they haven’t got the baby snaps!

Robert Henry Eyton was born in Wrockwardine, Shropshire, and christened there 7 January 1845. He had at least five sisters, and a couple of brothers, but given the profusion of later Eytons, I’m not going there. Father was Thomas Campbell Eyton (b Willington, Shropshire 10 September 1809; d Eyton, 25 October 1880), banker, JP, and all that. Mother was Elizabeth née Slaney. And Robert and his brother attended Rugby school (see 1861 census) and Trinity Hall, Cambridge University … The family can be seen at Wellington, Shropshire in the 1851 census. They have a household with eight servants.

Thomas Campbell Eyton
Well, some time between what seems to have been a very brief 1865 venture at Cambridge and the first half of 1866, R H Eyton left England for New Zealand. One wonders why. But on 28 August 1866, he married another new immigrant, Eleanor [Josephine Maud] Fosbery, daughter of Francis George Fosbery, of Curraghbridge, Limerick, and his wife Sarah Eleanor Wilhemina née Smith, in Auckland… did they meet on board the outward-bound Mary Shepherd heading, with 114 souls, to found an ill-fated new colony at Kawakawa in the Bay of Islands ? … or later? Anyway, they wed,within months of arriving, in Auckland, and the breeding began. 


I have tried to sort the children out. I have noted Hugh Slaney (b Parnell 1869; d Melbourne 27 October 1926), Arthur Fosbery (b Parnell 2 April 1870; d Drummond St, Melbourne 16 June 1885), Charles Fosbery (b Parnell 24 June 1871; Los Angeles 2 July 1941), Vere Campbell (1872; d Hospital Street, Greymouth 31 January 1873), our Alice Rose (1874-1929) and Cecil Robert (1876-1923), Keith (d Armagh Street, Christchurch 25 December 1877) … and there was/were more to come. 

The Eytons moved frequently, either in function of Robert’s ‘work’ as a journalist, or something else, and he apparently gambled on his facile pen and on ‘investments in mining’ to make him a living. All the while producing more and more babies. But Robert seems to have been a bit of a clot. He got into financial straits, passed 9 or 10 bad cheques in Nelson, and ended up fleeing to Melbourne, where he was dragged to court and attempted (?) newsworthily to commit suicide. 


But he was drained of his laudanum and ended up back in New Zealand, for the nonce at Greymouth, then Hokitika. 


We can more or less follow Eyton’s unstable career by the birthplaces of his children, so we know that, about 1877, the family left Hokitika for Christchurch where Robert became sub-editor on the Christchurch Press;

 By 1880 they had removed to Ashburton where he joined the respected Howard Charles Jacobson (1841-1910, Stories of Banks Peninsula) in leasing the Ashburton Guardian, and meddled in public affairs. Eleanor was singing in local concerts. But, typically, the business partnership didn’t last long: Mr Jacobson went on to head the Akaroa Mailand Mr Eyton scooted off to Australia. I sight him in Hobart, in Adelaide, in Melbourne … Eleanor and her four children seem to have traipsed with him. But her husband was up to his old tricks:


However, like the bad penny, he came back, and 20 March 1882 Eleanor gave birth to a little Veronica Fosbery Eyton at Macquarie Street, Hobart. And then we see Robert ‘of Bathurst Street’ buying 500 shares in a Tasmanian tin mining venture. And Eleanor singing, again, in the local concerts. Until, in March 1885, Robert had another shot at suicide. Hanging rather than poisoning himself, this time.

So, Mr Eyton (‘formerly sub-editor of the Mercury and editor of The Tasmanian News’), and his long-suffering family, left town for the umpteenth time. One child couldn’t take it. Sickly, fifteen year-old Arthur died. Four months later, Robert got his wish, and, after suffering an ‘apoplectic fit in Adelaide’, joined his son in his Melbourne grave. ‘After life’s trials and torments’. ‘He leaves two sons’ quoth the press. Three, actually: Hugh, Charles and Cedric. But also two daughters, Alice and little Vera.


And at the inquest, the dirty washing came out … epileptic, chronic alcoholic ..


In 1886, Eleanor remarried. Her new husband was the much younger Mr Robert Bentley Shires Nightingale (b Melbourne 5 June 1860), licensee of the Bohemian Club Hotel, Swanston Street. She took up running the Goulburn Valley Hotel, Bourke Street East, sold up her nine-room boarding house in Drummond Street, took on the Regatta Club Hotel, and in the meanwhile son Charles stepped (March 1887) into the limelight: ‘Victor’s Athletic Hall: An interesting item was the Graeco-Roman wrestling between Eyton and Barrows. The first named, who is a pupil of Prof Miller, is only a lightweight but ..’. ‘Young Charley Eyton’ was at the beginning of the first of his successful careers, as a wrestler, a club-swinger, a living statue, a sometime actor ...


The next to make the news was our baby, Cecil. Sixteen year-old Cecil (or Robert as he, for the moment, preferred) had gone off the rails at an early age. He seems to have been a very thick and loose cannon. He fancied himself a wide-west bushranger, but he wasn’t very good at it and ended up being arrested amid a storm of newspaper reports. He must have calmed down eventually, because I see him still living with mummy in 1910. Between one Robert and another, Eleanor seems to have been a pretty forgiving lady.


The law didn’t always forgive her. She had a few public house brushes with the licensing authorities, and seems to have given up on beer-selling.

The girls would gain their renown from saner activities. Alice followed in father’s footsteps and took up writing. Vera turned to singing and the theatre.

Alice started writing for the Sydney Mail in about 1897, and was part of Melbourne’s ‘Bohemian’ circle until in March 1902 ‘the young Sydney ‘journalist’ left for overseas. She ended up, after a stint in Britain, in California and, in 1909, the Los Angeles Examiner reported ‘Miss Alice Rose Eyton sister of Charlie Eyton, manager of the Burbank Theatre has written her first play and had it accepted by Sanger and Jordan'.

As for Vera, I see her in 1898-9, ‘pupil of Mr Louis Grist’, expending her ‘pleasant light soprano’ in Sydney concerts, before, in 1900, she went on the professional stage. In 1901 she announced her departure for Europe and a Farewell concert. ‘Her frock was more impressive than her voice’ opined the press. 


When next heard of she was reportedly in Edinburgh, allegedly engaged for the pantomime, The Invisible Prince, as Princess Ivy. And then, with rather more exposure, in 1903, as co-respondent in the divorce of Syndey-born Mr John Mackenzie-Fairfax. She married him in 1906. But it doesn’t seem to have lasted. By 1911 he is back with his parents, professing to be a 40 year-old author and ‘single’.


Charley’s career, hitched profitably to the Morosco organisation, first in theatre and then in films, ran smoothly and prosperously, his marriages to three (successive) silent film actresses – Anna Cole, Bessie Harrison and Kathlyn Williams -- rather less successfully. He gave a leg up to little sister Vera who seems to have turned up in Hollywood about 1912, calling herself ‘Vera Doria’, with a husband, Juan de la Cruz, and a heap of tales about her brilliant successes as a vocalist and actress in Europe.


 Funny, I can’t find a single mention of her in Europe, though I do see her in the stage production of The Tik-Tok Man of Oz. Anyway, Charley put her in the pictures, where for six or seven years she vamped her way successfully into international ‘fame’ in supporting roles, before disappearing from filmic view. She also appeared in the Morosco musical So Long, Letty. I see her sailing from Shanghai in 1920 with a dramatic company as Vera Doria or Eyton (tiens! So she never became Vera de la Cruz! Shame.) and yes! There she is in Kiangsu, China 15 December 1921 becoming Mrs John Snodgrass. And there, I think I will leave her. Oh, when she died 22 June 1957 in Los Angeles county, it was as ‘Eyton’. In 1930 she seems to be ‘Mrs Richard Black’. 


I’m saving our two ‘babies’ for last, so I’ll tidy up Eleanor first. At some stage, Eleanor and followed the family to Los Angeles. I see her there in the 1910 census, with Alice and Cecil. I see her referred to as ‘of the Panama Apartments’, I see her tripping to Europe in 1912 returning bringing Vera. And I see her death notice the following year (28 March 1913). So she never saw Vera become a success at last. But she saw Charley, and she saw Alice. Her obituary read:


Sidney? Who is Sidney? Cedric in disguise? Madame de la Cruz we know about. Hugh I’d rather forgotten about. Robert the husband is still alive? Yes. But he’s gone back to Australia (or never left it), where he died in 1925. And what is Alice doing in Costa Rica?

Alice Eyton von Saxmar
Alice, after some years in England, had become a successful part of the Hollywooden industry, turning out scenarios, film-scripts, adaptations … an altogether more successful writer, indeed, than her much noisier father. You can read a list of some of her projects in the works of such as David Haliwell. She married a fellow film-writer, Alabama-born Robert von Saxmar (8 September 1911), and apparently lived happily at Hollywood’s 6353 Yucca Street, up to her death 3 November 1929, from burns received in a party-costume accident.



And poor, dumb Cecil Robert, the baby bushranger? He’d run home to mother. And yes, he called himself ‘Sidney’ now. ‘I was an accountant in Australia and now I’m working as a hotel clerk’, he said in court. A doorman, so the registers say. Oh yes, in court: he couldn’t keep straight. He apparently married an actress named Edith Burke, and next thing was up for attempting (it ran in the family!) a miserable can’t-cope suicide. Ineffectually, of course. Then he married the cashier at the local cinema, and ended up a few months later back in court charged with bigamy. So he probably did run to Mexico. He died in San Francisco 19 November 1923. Presumably of naturalish causes. Oh dear, what a failure: and he was such a cute baby.
A little PS abut Hugh, the Eyton who didn’t go to Hollywood. Educated at Christ’s College, Christchurch, he spent some years in Devonport, Tasmania, where he practiced as an accountant, and he grew up to be a seemingly solid member of the Yarra and Prahran business community and society. Starr-Bowkett Permanent Land and Building Society. In 1892 he married Miss Florence Tempest Nightingale and fathered a Constance, a Florence, and an Elizabeth Mary.

Oh, he didn’t wholly escape the family demons. In 1906 he was described in the press as ‘a mining speculator’. Why was he in the press? Because a married woman from Devonport who was ‘residing with’ him at temporary lodgings at 40 Grattan Street, Carlton, committed suicide. Shot herself. She wasn’t an Eyton, so she succeeded.

When Florence died 15 July 1934 at 31 Cromwell Rd Hawksburn she was listed as sister of William (NZ), Robert, George and Richard (dead) and John Septimus (USA). Surely Hugh didn’t marry his mother’s husband’s sister! My gosh, he did!

Enough. Who would have thought two wee baby pictures from Cashel Street would have led me to all this!



Oh! These items have been withdrawn too. There must be a Nelson K Cherrill fan on the prowl. Never mind, they're preserved here for posterity.