Monday, February 26, 2024

The York circuit 1843 or, another tenor

 

Another splendid ebay find ...


The Theatre Royal, York. 1843. OK fair bit of research to do here although there are a number of names there I recognise.

One of them is that of Frederick Gardner, who Mr Pritchard clearly thought was his star card. Well, I suppose he was a tenor ...

GARDNER, Frederick (b Manchester, ?c1811; d Fostoria, Ohio 11 January 1898)

 

There are some artists who flash across the musical and theatrical scene, leaving little clue as to whence they came, or whither they went. When the young Mr Frederick Gardner was whisked off to New York, as the leading tenor for Mr Rophino Lacy’s vastly-puffed daughter’s operatic troupe, one could very well have said ‘who?’ But Fred actually had been a few years on the stage. Even if he wouldn’t be for very more.

 

But, with a little help from my friend Betsy, and the Burlington Hawk-Eye, I’ve managed to find out who he was. He was born in Lancashire, son to a John Gardner who, in the 1841 census calls himself a ‘broker’. Fred, aged 20 (30, surely?) is a professor of music, and there is a Louisa, probably a sister, completing the family at 22 Norton Street, Liverpool.

The Hawk-Eye claims he was educated at Oxford, sang in the Westminster [Abbey] choir, sang at Victoria’s coronation, and was an operatic tenor in ‘London and many cities in Europe’. It also claims he had a degree, a doctorate, in music – from Oxford? – and, well, I think we can dismiss all that. The biography gets provably imaginary later on.

My first confirmable sighting of Fred as a performer is at the little Liver Theatre, Liverpool, mostly a home for conjurors and contortionists, and occasionally for dramatic seasons. The Liver was little advertised or reviewed, but on 15 March he sang ‘a favourite song’ at the Benefit of the Box Book Keeper, and 20 March 1839, he himself took a Benefit there, acting Walter Barnard in The Rover’s Bride, so I imagine he had played some sort of a little season there. Later that year, he seems to have got a job at the suburban London Pavilion Theatre (Whitsun Eve, Jack Sheppard) -- ‘this gentleman is a better actor than the generality of singers and will become a favourite’ ‘sang a pretty ballad ‘My Childhood’s Happy Home’ -- but by January he was back at the Liver Theatre, playing opposite Mrs Waylett, in her starring visit with a pasticcio version of Auber’s The Fairy Lake (‘This gentleman, a pupil of Mr A Lee, is rapidly progressing’).

In 1840, he was at the Theatre Royal, Leicester, and in 1841 he was taken on by the Lacy-Delcy machine, to take the second tenor parts, behind Templeton, playing Alidoro in Cinderella and Lorenzo in Fra Diavolo, at Liverpool and Manchester. The advertising assures us that he is ‘of the Theatre Royal, Bath’ and a pupil of Tom Welsh. Which doesn’t get ‘revealed’ anywhere else.

Back at Leicester, the press advised him: ‘We would advise Mr G to confine himself principally to simple ballads – they please more than such songs as ‘I love her’, which are difficult rather than pretty, and which require, for their execution, strong lungs rather than taste’. Which makes it rather sound as if he were not a robust tenor.

He played at Leeds (‘The execution of Mr Gardner is somewhat too rapid and his articulation occasionally a little indistinct’), Hereford and at Hull, where he was musical director for the plays and sang the incidental songs in As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice. And, as we see, at York.

In 1844, he was engaged for London’s Princess’s Theatre. He made his ‘first appearance in London’ (so was he not the F Gardner at the Pavilion?) in the role of Rodrigo in Othello alongside Allen and Madame Garcia. ‘A new tenor imported from the United States … he sings with discretion, but lacks refinement of style. The quality of his voice, however, is good…’ The United States? ‘A Mr F Gardner from New York debuted as Rodrigo; he is a tenor, very unequal and of faulty style; he has much to earn, or rather to unlearn ... Voice he has; yet there is such a thing as taste, which must be either good or bad, so the sooner he gets Yankee-land out of his head the better...’  But what is this United States?

 

On 2 May, the Princess’s opened The Crown Diamonds with Anna Thillon as star. Gardner was cast in the role of Don Sebastian for the two months’ run, and then announced as a member of the operatic troupe for none less than the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

In his term at the Lane, Gardner appeared as Ottokar in Der Freischütz, alongside Miss Delcy and King, as the French Knight in Balfe’s new The Daughter of St Mark and as Fernando in Fidelio, but at the end of the season he landed himself a promotion. To leading tenor, for the Lacys visit to America under the management of Mr Simpson of the Park Theatre.

The history of Miss Delcy’s career in America is told by me at length elsewhere. Gardner, Brough and the weak local cast hired to support the lady were virtually ignored, amid all the fuss and fights that characterised the Lacy tour of a little of America. Gardner got to sing Elvino, Max ka Rudolph, Edgardo, Fra Diavolo and Felix in the shadow of the ‘star’. One of the few American reviews I have culled allows him a nice voice, but accuses him of singing out of tune most of the time. Not one claims him as a New Yorker!

 

The Lacys returned to Britain, and gave a few performances of their operas in Dublin (4 May 1846) and at the Liverpool Adelphi (15 May). His hometown press referred to ‘a rich tenor’ ‘adequate to the part he had undertaken’… and as far as I can see, never referred to him again. Neither did anyone else in Britain. Miss Delcy and her career were finished, and we know what happened to her. But so, evidently, was that of her leading man. What became of him? Well, he went back to America. But he doesn’t seem to have sung much more. I spot him in 1850, a ‘professor of music’ aged 30, in Detroit. In 1851, he can be seen for a while touring with the Seguin troupe (Thaddeus, Elvino). After which he apparently turned to minstrelling.

 

Fred Gardner aged 51 ‘music teacher’ and ‘born England’, married to a Sarah (Sallie née Bell) from Lebanon, Ohio (31) with children Belle V, Fred Corwin and Rose E, (and Grace to follow in 1876) is living in Center Township, Henry, Iowa in 1870. He was apparently employed as a teacher at the Iowa Weslyan University. But the Hawk-Eye fills in the gap, telling us that ‘in 1851, he completed a four years’ course in medicine and surgery’ and practiced in medicine until disabled by arthritis. Yet he still called himself ‘professor of music’?

 The 1880 census shows the family, with Sallie and Belle teaching music, still in Mount Pleasant, but no Fred. But he’s there somewhere. Because he goes on to be a teacher at the Ladies’ Seminary of Arcadia, Louisiana before his retirement.

In 1900, Sarah Bell Gardner (b November 1846) is living in Seneca Ohio with Fred jr and Rose. And a fifth child, Harry, born in New York in 1881. But Fred has gone. Allegedly, aged 87. I wonder how the Hawk-Eye knew that.


A rather more substantial member of the company was the bass Patrick Corri. The Corri family and their contribution to music and theatre in Britain have been written about at length, so I'll just pop in a few facts. And they show us that this season was a 'soon-to-be family' affair:


CORRI, Pat[rick Constantine] (b Scotland c 1820; d Bradford, 15 June 1876)

married Mary Jane WOULDS (b Clifton x 5 June 1821; d 1906) daughter of Jas Woulds of the Theatre Royal, Bath & Charlotte Mary née SMITH, Birmingham 2 April 1844

Three in one blow!  We see them in the 1851 census in Shoreditch 3 Queens Row. Patricius Constantine sic 29, dramatic artist, b Scotland, Mary Jane 29 wife, with Haydn Woulds, Elinor Constance, William Smith,  and Henry Bishop Corri,  plus Elizabeth Woulds 24 actress and Louisa Woulds 23 dancer   nextdoor is Charlotte Bishop (nee Woulds) prof mus, with visitor James WOULDS 61 comedian and Alicia Woulds actress & harpist 28

Pat was a stalwart of the British stage -- notably, a long time star at the Grecian ... but microsoft ate my large article and family tree ... and I'm blowed if I'm doing it all over.


I suppose we'd better start with the producer, John Langford PRITCHARD (b 1799; d Leeds 8 August 1850). I'm not researching him either, because, to my amazement he has been given an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography. It enumerates the items in his solid but unspectacular acting career, and finishes off saying that he went latterly north. That he did, and there leased the York Circuit of theatres -- Hull, York and Leeds. He seems to have satisfied his audiences well, for nine consecutive years, before, to general regret, being forced to retire by ill-health. 




Alfred Edward REYNOLDS (b Norfolk c 1799; d unknown) was a real stalwart, although only ever a useful actor. He began in the theatre in his earliest teens, but found his place as an acting and company manager almost entirely on the northern circuits. He is reported to have been for 23 years acting manager of the York Circuit. I have found the death of his wife, Jane, in Sunderland 28 May 1860, and their daughter Jane Florence (Mrs Matthew Francis) 'of the Theatre Royal, Worcester' 27 January 1877, but father? The last I see of him he is a pensioner of the Royal Dramatic College at Woking, in 1871 ...


William GOURLAY (b Edinburgh c 1815; d 80 Great Western Rd, 3 February 1883) seems to have been pretty much of a new boy. He had married Miss Louisa Ryder in 1841 and they, now, came as a pair. He'd been purveying comic songs in Hull ... for he was condemned to the comic: he was known as 'wee Gourlay'. Anyway, Louisa is the Mrs in our playbill. But she died aged 34 and he remarried a Susan M TAYLOR and had lots of bairns. He had a jolly career, which took him as far as London ... ever with the tag 'the popular Scottish comedian'. I wonder if he were an ancestor of the Gourlay of Skipped by the Light of the Moon.


 

Perhaps the most famous name on the bill, however, is that of Gomersal, for the family left a mark on the theatrical world from London to Yorkshire to the United States.


Grandfather Edward Alexander Gomersal (b 1788; d Portland Cresc, Leeds 19 October 1862) 'the Napoleon of Astley's' had made himself celebrated by his portrayal of the Buonaparte in The Battle of Waterloo. He had been lessee of the Garrick Theatre, and later became landlord of the Wellington Hotel, Leeds. In the 1851 census, with his third daughter and his wife in Market Place, Stockport, he describes himself as 'an old comedian'. 




The Mr Gomersal on our bill is son number one (?), at the beginning of his career. [Edward] William GOMERSAL (b Stangate St, London 12 May 1817; d NYC 3 October 1863).  Not to be confused with his brother William James GOMERSAL (b Stangate St, x 20 February 1828; d Claines, Worcs 19 May 1902) who had a much longer career as actor and theatre manager (Sheffield, Aberdeen, Norwich, and 22 years at Worcester) and who penned his memoirs as Anecdotes of the Stage (Worcestershire Publishing Co, 1891). 



William and his wife, Maria, spent 1863-1868 in America, where Mrs became the first actress to sing La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein in English.  Thereafter girlies with the Gomersal surname surfaced regularly, which I guess was a compliment. The real Gomersals of Yorkshire carried on ..


SAUNDERS. Three of 'em. Pretty well impossible. Well, I've sort of got two of them, maybe three. Yes, three! 'Died Manchester 30 January 1846 aged 54 years Mr William Saunders, father of Mr John and Miss Saunders of the Theatre Royal, and of Mr H Saunders of the Royal Amphitheatre ...'


John [Henry] SAUNDERS comedian. He first appears to my eyes in York in 1840 for race week. Then at the end of the year both he and Mr H Saunders are engaged in the lower parts of the bill for Mr Hooper's company at Hull. When he played Pedro (ie Buttons) in the panto he was told he would be 'a useful actor' if he didn't fidget. When they moved on to Leeds he did 'a comic dance'. Mr H Saunders did a pas de deux with a Miss Andrews. In 1842, the two Saunders gents were still at Hull, John taking good supportingroles, Henry doing his dances, with a Miss Hunt. But by Pritchard time 'Miss Saunders' (the press assured us that she was Henry's sister) arrived. She sings duet with Miss Woulds and dances with Henry ...  

Back to John. He had a good provincial career: the York circuit, Sheffield, Manchester, Dublin, Brighton, more and more Sheffield, Bristol and billed as 'from the Theatre Royal, Westminster at Liverpool, Sunderland but an umpteenth return to Sheffield ended in disaster when he lost all his Streets of London props in a theatre fire. I see him at Cheltenham in 1866, and at Dewsbury in 1871 .. there he is with his family in Sheffield 'born 1821' with three children .. and I lose him. In 1881 his (second) wife Eliza Levy is a widow ...  


Mr Henry SAUNDERS. I see him in 1838 at Edinburgh playing 'a sailor'. The other sailor is 'Mr Saunders'. I see him doing the Union Flag Dance in 1838 with Mrs Redford and 'his sister Miss Saunders'. 1840, its Mr J Saunders and Mr H at Hull. 1841-2 dancing on the York Circuit (with Mr J). 1845 he's Harlequin .. again 1848 at Liverpool .. 1850 principal dancer at the City of London Theatre under E F Saville. More Harlequin at the Standard then 1853 at Dublin .. eh? scenery by? ah no .. Harlequin again 1854 .. the Strand Theatre (1855) ... 


Miss SAUNDERS. Well, I thought I had found her. Miss Rose Saunders and her brother George Lemon Saunders set up as singing and dancing teachers in Sheffield. She had dance-trained in France, it was said. Then there was Miss Saunders the Yorkshire singer, launched noisily with Mrs Sunderland ...  More delving required here. Where is papa William in C41?  


Well, I tried.


Eliza GATES?  Well, she was not the usual kind of nymphet dancer seen in theatres. I spot her as early as 1832, at the Blue Horse Inn, Spittlegate, Grantham, doing an unspecified dance on a programme with Mr and Mrs Gates. Papa and Mama?  I see her dancing at Preston in 1835, Manchester in 1836, but after her appearances on the York Circuit she was picked up by London and made her appearance 'little and light of toe, but ..' at the Olympic Theatre, 4 December 1843, giving her 'Poetry in motion' and the Cracovienne she'd performed in Yorkshire. She was Columbine at Christmas, performed a duo with Flexmore, and in August 1844 it came to an end. Married? Dead? Nobody seems to have noticed. Oh! But I do see this! Died, 7 July 1838, Mrs Gates wife of Mr Gates comedian of the Queen's Theatre [Manchester]'. More work needed.


Miss E JOHNSON seems to have had a short career round the York circuits, and is maybe one of Miss EJs who married local worthies...


J C PELHAM was undoubtedly a stage name. Mr J C Pelham was a well-known politician ..  Maybe he was the Mr Pelham who got rubbished at the Windsor Theatre in 1841 ('the poor man continues to blunder throught his difficult parts with unprecedented stupidity ..'). Now, under Pritchard, he is 'J P Pelham'. He plays Robin in The Waterman (not a loved role!). Is it he singing Irish songs? Playing bits at the Surrey? Who knows. 


You don't really think I'm going to attempt 'Mdlle Orelia'?  She seems to have been all right for a few seasons.


I think that's enough. This article was really for Fred. I'll post it, forget it, and in a few years if the genealogical experts hav'n't sorted out stuff ..   I'll have another go.


Gen Expert Gina has come up with this ... another Mrs Gates?




Saturday, February 24, 2024

Pretty Minnie: a Gaiety girl gone too soon ...



This lovely photo came up in my daily ebay trawl ...



Well, I think she is lovely. And named, too. Here goes my morning. Like Lalage Potts, 'I want to know'.

I didn't know what I was getting into. But, after heavy delving, here are the answers.

Minnie ROSS [ROSS, Williamina] (b 17 Montieth Row, Calton, Glasgow 22 June 1863; d Ventnor, Isle of Wight 22 December 1892) was one of the multiple daughters of 'actor' William Gribbon Ross and his second wife Maria née Moroney from Embly, Tipperary.

Gribbon? Oh, blimey, this is W G ROSS (b 31 July 1819; d 23 April 1881) of 'Sam Hall' megafame. Well, I shan't delve too deeply into his details: he must be in every book ever written about the Halls ..


Ross had begun his career in Scotland .. I see him performing there in 1845 ...


but by 1848 he had moved to London. He found a niche for his character songs at the Cyder Cellars, where his songs 'Mr(s) Johnson' and, especially 'Sam Hall' with its portrayal of a condemned chimey-sweep and its volley of violent oaths, proved a major hit.  W G Ross and 'Sam Hall' were inseparable thereafter.

His family. Well, as far as I can see, he had one daughter (Lillian) by his first wife, Jane née MILLER, then after his marriage to Mary Moroney (Argyll, 19 September 1853) I pick from the censi Sarah Margaret (21 November 1853), Maria Emma (30 June 1855), Isabella (30 March 1857), Elizabeth Kate (Clerkenwell  30 March 1859), Ada Mary (1861), Emma L, and Minnie .. ..

Few lived long lives. Elizabeth died as an infant, Lillian (Mrs Geo T Saunders) died 28 February 1875 aged 32, Sarah died 1877 aged 23, Isabel 'actress' died aged 24 (10 December 1881) ... I'm not sure whether Emma L is fact or fiction ...

Only Maria Emily (Mrs Geo Abraham Riley) who died in Quebec in 1933, and Ada Mary (Mrs, Wm Robt Shephard, Mrs Geo A Hill) who died in Edmonton in September 1933 survived (with mother) into the 20th century. 

Although Isabel described herself as an 'actress' (she was a 'fancy box maker' in C71), Minnie seems to have been the only one of the Ross girls to go into the theatre. And she went early. In April 1877 already I see her playing a bit in The Flying Scud and 'Sugarcandos' in Sinbad at the Glasgow, the next year being decoration in Annie Baldwin's company and principal girl in Bluebeard in Glasgow. She went on the road with George Capel's modest companies and the Majiltons, appeared at Islington, as another panto Princess, at Bristol, as principal boy as the North Woolwich Gardens, as Little Red Riding Hood at York (our picture?) and went on the road in Taken from Life ... a modest record, but she was not yet twenty!

She played the genie of the lamp in Aladdin at Glasgow, played in Mark Melford's  A Reign of Terror with Violet Melnotte, 'light comedy, soubrettes and burlesque'. Then she got a fine job. The term 'Gaiety girl' was not yet in current use,  but that's what Minnie became. She joined George Edwardes's Monte Cristo jr tour company as Babette, continued into Faust up to Date ('a waitress') and Carmen up to Data ('an hidalgo'). The latter show ended in July 1891, but she didn't go on into the next Gaiety piece...

Pretty Minnie Ross died in Ventnor at the end of 1892. Ventnor? Was she there for her health? What was wrong with her health? A death certificate could assuage my curiosity. But her death registration says she was 25. She wasn't. She was 29 going on 30. Strange, how folk seem to think it needful to shave their age after they are dead. Is there a man in the case? No sign of one. But I do note that she claimed in the 1891 census to be living on her income. 

You are a wee bit of a puzzle, Minnie. But I am sorry you died so young and beautiful.


 


Thursday, February 22, 2024

Theatre Royal, Plymouth 1861



A culling of ebay this week brought up an amazing series of playbills from an 1861 season at the very consequent Theatre Royal at Plymouth.

A season, in the glorious Victorian days, was not host to today's dreary 'every night' productions of one show. That kind of theatrical constipation had not -- in the days before films, television, and only in the early days of the music halls -- not yet arrived.

A country manager took a theatre for a season of weeks or months, hired himself a company and, sometimes, even, lured the odd guest 'star' to Stockport or Scarbough for a night or two, and put on a series of performances with which he hoped to attract sufficient of the local populace to witness a nightly changing bill of drama, comedy, dance, music ...  If he were a canny caster, and could hire himself young actors and particularly actresses who became 'local favourites, he could get the same audience back for a new sixpence worth night after night ...

These 'seasons' were particularly potentially profitable when there was a daytime attraction pulling patrons to the town .. the local race meeting (Doncaster and Newmarket theatres always opened their doors in race weeks), or a regatta ... and this was the case here.  Manager J R Newcombe (who was the expert maestro of the Plymouth theatre for many, many years) opened his theatre for the races in 1861 ...

The first night, with his new company (including some members of his last season's company) was 19 August, when he presented Twelfth Night featuring local favourites James O'Sullivan (Orsino) and Kate Ranoe (Olivia) and the young Fanny Addison as Viola.

The first bills I have are for the 23rd and 24th. 




 I am not sure whether they played six nights a week


But the second Friday seems to have been the money night, with no less a celebrity than horse racing's Admiral Rous's presence for the occasion billed larger than any of the players. 

The next week ...




And the next Friday the amdrams moved in.

Most of the pieces played were familiar ones, but Gitanilla, by John Crawford Wilson, had only been produced at London's Surrey Theatre 8 October of the previous year. It was well enough received there, with Creswick in the role of melodramatic Pedro and the theatres 'astounding effects' and a nice toll of dead bodies. Afteer its couple of weeks at the Surrey it was picked up by J H Chute for Bristol and Bath, then by Newcastle and Liverpool on a double bill with the seasonal pantomime. In Dublin it was played as a forepiece to Lydia Thompson! And Newcombe picked it up. He got half a dozen showings out of it, and doubtless shelved the scenery for his next round of The Colleen Bawn. Leicester played to two dramas as a double bill! Bury played it as an addition to Slavery ... Mr Wilson might have been sub-sub-Boucicault, but Gitanilla did OK! The writer progressed to Elsie, or Flights to Fairyland et al


Naturally, I have to know who this little company were. The two twenty-something juvenile ladies became 'known'. One, indeed, so 'known' that I've already biographied her ...

RANOE, Kate [RANOE, Katherine] (b Bridgnorth, Salop c 1837; d Montreal, Canada, 29 March 1893)

 

The musician and showman, Jullien, featured some well-known artists – from Charlott Ann Birch or Anna Thillon to Madame Gassier to Charlotte Dolby – as vocalists with his grand orchestra. But he also gave extended opportunities to a number of young unknowns, such as Cicely Nott and most particularly, Kate Ranoe.

 

Miss Ranoe was born in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. Her actor father, James Ranoe had come there to play with the local theatre company, and married local girl Maria Hall in 1834 (28 April). Maria swiftly began turning out a regular run of infants, and by the time James moved on from Shropshire, at the end of the 1830s, they had babies Michael, Kate and Isabella in tow.

In the 1841 census, 4 year-old Kate is to be found in Henry Street, Lambeth, with her paternal grandmother. James is evidently working in the provinces, the rest of the family with him, as another sister, Cecilia Victoria was christened later that year in Stamford. Further children followed, with the inevitable rate of wastage, with another sister, Rosina, born in 1845. Michael went on to be a railway guard and inspector, Isabella a drawing mistress married to a stone mason, but Kate, Cecilia and Rosina all went into music and the theatre.

 

Kate made her first appearance in public at the Adelphi Theatre in Sheffield in February of 1849, on the occasion of her father’s Benefit. She sang two solos and a duet, and played the role of Jenny Leatherlungs in the trifle Jenny Lind at Last. She was billed as ‘the Infant Jenny Lind’. ‘She both acts and sings with energy, precision and tact’, reported the local press, warning her parent against making her do too much, too young.

 Now, the story (doubtless true) about little Miss Ranoe goes that she was taken up/adopted or whatever by Monsieur Jullien, who paid for and supervised her musical education. Well, it just happens that in Sheffield that week Jullien was indeed playing (vocalist: Mme Thillon) and it is tempting to believe that he saw the little girl perform.

 In any case, Kate was at some stage taken into the Jullien household, enrolled at the RAM – variously as ‘pupil of Miss Dolby’ and ‘pupil of Crivelli’ -- and judged to have ‘a contralto voice which promises to be of the very finest quality’ in pieces such as ‘The Lord is mindful of his own’. I am not sure whether she is the ‘Miss Ranoe’ who appears briefly at the City of London Theatre in 1852. There were a lot of them.

 

When Kate’s time at the Academy was over, she naturally made her re-debut under her ‘father’s’ management. Jullien launched a season on 15 July 1856 – ‘a grand inauguration festival for the opening of the Colossal Concert Hall’ – for which he hired a tiara of star artists including Dolby, Alboni, Novello, the Gassiers, Reeves, Rokitansky and … Miss Kate Ranoe.  After the opening, things settled down to a less stellar level, and Kate put in regular appearances. I notice her giving ‘John Anderson, my Jo’ ‘sweetly’, and the Evening Prayer from Eli, during the seasons which were interspersed with Jullien’s wide and grand national tours. On which ‘Miss Ranoe’ went too.

 

At Christmas 1858, she was cast as ‘Italian Opera’ in the Covent Garden pantomime Little Red Riding Hood, and apparently she went to Paris to further her studies under Duprez. 

 

At this stage, however, Jullien was – for the umpteenth time -- deep in financial trouble, and after a spell in debtor’s prison, he died in March 1860. A fantastical story appeared in the press, telling how, now insane, he had threatened ‘young lady of fifteen, his adopted daughter’ with a knife, ‘a pupil of Duprez who bids fair to become a great singer’. Kate appeared in a Benefit for his widow at the Surrey Gardens (31 July) singing Reichardt’s ’Thou art so near and yet so far’.

 

With her sponsor gone, Kate’s career changed. She took a job in the company at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth (‘the late lamented Jullien’s protegée’), and there we meet her. When she sang at yet another Benefit for Mme Jullien (‘Deh vieni’), the press assured ‘we have never seen her to greater advantage’, but, when she played the title-role in Rosina, they were less impressed’ remarking ‘her voice has lost all that brilliancy which we remember it possessed, some four or five years since, when she accompanied the late M Jullien’.

 

From now on, Kate worked as an actress who sings. When the theatre did a play version of Il Trovatore she played Leonora, and interpolated bit of the opera, when they did The Colleen Bawn she was Eily, she sang songs between the acts, and was decidedly popular. It was averred ‘she still lives with Mme Jullien’, but in the 1861 census she is a 23 year-old actress and boarder in a local home.When Madame Jullien attempted to continue where her late husband had left off, Kate too appeared, but more and more she was working as a burlesque actress and comedienne: at the Adelphi, the Olympic, the Strand, the Royalty, at the Queen’s Theatre in Dublin.

 

Her situation had now singularly changed, for on 20 January 1862 at St James’s Westminster, Kate had become Mrs Frederick Edward Molyne[a]ux St John (b Newcastle 28 November 1838; d Ottawa 30 January 1904), a sometime officer in the marines and a scion of the aristocracy. Since Mrs St John continued as an actress, perhaps not a very well-off scion.

In 1868, the St Johns left England for Canada, and Molyne[a]ux metamorphosed into variously a journalist, an author (The Sea of Mountains), a political secretary, a railways agent, an agent for the Land Corporation of Canada and a civil servant. Kate, after a brief sojourn at New York’s Wallack’s Theatre (25 September 1867), continued for some years to perform – notably as La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein in an early Canadian Offenbach production – in Montreal, Toronto and associated venues.

The St Johns returned to England for some years, during his period as a railway agent (they are there for the 1881 census), but returned to Canada where they ended their days in Ottawa.

Kate, apparently, was ‘accidentally killed’ in Montreal in 1893.

 

The other theatrical Ranoes worked on: James as a useful provincial and suburban actor and stage manager, and finally as stage manager to the Italian Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre; Maria, who had been a costume-maker at the Lyceum, at the head of her own costumery as ‘Madame Ranoe’ of 5 Church Street, Covent Garden, and Cecilia and Rosina both as burlesque actresses.  

Cecilia married in 1860 Francis Cowley Burnand, the well-know burlesque author and writer, who, after her early death, remarried Rosina, by this stage the widow of Edward Payson Jones (1874). The enumeration of their offspring would take more space than this article. Dame Rosina Burnand died in Ramsgate in 1924.


Don't worry. I'm not going to detail the other member of the company at such length, but Kate was 'one I cooked before'.


I'm not going to go into Fanny ADDISON [ADDISON, Frances Pauline] (b Birmingham 2 December 1843; d 7 January 1937). She has been written about so many times before. Daughter of an actor, she, like her sister Carlotta, went on the stage young. She married (1874) the American actor Henry Mader Pitt (1850-1898), worked latterly as Fanny Addison Pitt and lived to a ripe old age ...





In the 1861 census, she 'aged 17' and sister Carlotta 'aged 15' are boarding in Sidwell St, Exeter. Fanny is already an 'actress'. She has been seen at Doncaster, as a member of the company at Brighton, and at census time she was playing Eily in The Colleen Bawn and Ophelia at Exeter. Her teenage engagement with Newcombe was an early step to a career as a characterful star of the American theatre.

A couple of wee reference book errors. Fanny was born in 1843, not 1847. And ... where did she end her life? No-one seems to be certain. Surely it made the press.

Anyway she was 17 going on 18 in this season.


James O'SULLIVAN [SULLIVAN, James Joseph] (b Cork c1835; d Manchester 19 October 1872) 'son of Stephen Sullivan and Ellen née Bedwell' began his career as an actor in his native Ireland. Unfortunately, Ireland is/was littered with James Sullivans and James O'Sullivans (inclusding in his days a particularly vocal clergyman) so tracking down his earliest days is almost impossible. I see him being baptised 14 March 1835 at St Mary's, Cork. And I see him not again until 1860, when he is 'from the Theatre Royal, Sunderland' and joining the company at Durham. Playing Macbeth and the sculptor in The Marble Heart. On to North Shields as Claude Melnotte in The Lady of Lyons, and in March 1861 he came to Plymouth, where he was seen  in Irish comedy, in the drama The Pirate of Algiers (Abon Hamet) opposite Miss Ranoe, The Marble Heart et al. When he put in an appearance at the Standard, Shoreditch as Ragged Pat in Ireland as it was, with Miss Mandelbert, and Raymond in The Midnight Angel, he was billed as 'the favourite representative of Irish character from the Theatre Royal, Dublin'. And then came The Colleen Bawn. He appeared as Myles-na-Coppaleen at the Manchester Queen's 'with so much spirit and felling' then moved straight back to Plymouth for our season.

He was still there in November, with many of the August company, playing Faust in Faust and Marguerite with Emma Robberds, Iago in Othello, Rory in Rory O'More, in the inevitable Colleen Bawn, in March 1862 as Macduff ... In May-June he visited Newcastle as Barney O'Toole in Peep o'Day, then Sheffield, and gave his Myles ('200th time) with three songs and an Irish Jig at the Liverpool Adelphi ('capitally played') and The White Horse of the Peppers.

Next up, he was at Dublin's Queen's Theatre playing nasty Will Murtough ('with a song') in The Green Bushes, at Limerick playing Young Joe alongside Harry Webb in The Post Boy, then returned to Plymouth now as a guest star as Rory O'More, Iago, Terence O'More (with several Irish songs) in a St Patrick's Eve piece and, of course, Myles-na-Coppaleen.

Sullivan was throughly established as a top provincial actor and comedian of wide talents. In the following years, he toured major dates from Manchester to Liverpool, Leeds to Brighton, in his favourite roles -- Myles, Murtough, Shaun the Post in Arrah-na-Pogue, Rory o'More -- occasionally risking a part such as Charles Surface with limited success. Such 'Irish' classics as Born to Good Luck were more what his audiences expected. 'In this class of character Mr O'Sullivan is well able to hold his own against all-comers'.

But he didn't. It was reported, in 1871, that he was unwell at his home in Tonbridge. But he was back, playing Peep o'Day and Arrah-na-Pogue at Manchester ... and there he died, aged 37, shortly after.

Sullivan married (1864) Emma Alice Hawley (actress) daughter of one Frederick Hawley who described himself variously as Esq, solicitor and theatrical agent and Emma Cox née Euens. She (d 1914) remarried after his death, John R Cornock.  


Emma [Mary] ROBBERDS (b Paddington c 1841; d Burnley 27 January 1924) took a tad of unearthing, but I and my memory for trivia got her in the end. And it was her real name!  The memory bit that set me right was of the suburban Marylebone Theatre in the early 1850. Amongst the company for many years was a Mr Charles Robberds (1807-1869) and his wife Louisa née Chubb (d. London, Robberds, theatre? Go chase them. 




And there they were, married 1824, in the 1851 census, in Exeter St, Marylebone, mamma and papa and four children (there were more) of whom no2 was Emma, aged 10 ish. Strange that she don't appear in the red books of Somerset House. But Robberds is an easily misspellable name.

Following Emma's career is equally fraught with pieges. When she is 'Emma Robberds' all is fine. But I suspect there is another 'Miss Robberds' immiscing in the affair. Not forgetting that mama used to bill herself as 'Miss'. I think I've weeded well, but ... well... 'Miss' is such a dumb prefix.

I spot her first at sixteenish playing leading roles at Cardiff, Wolverhampton in 1857. Then Swansea, Cardiff with Chute (Desdemona, Juliet, Rosalind). Is that she in the Sunderland panto? And in 1861 she came to Plymouth. She would, like O'Sullivan, return regularly, but she fulfilled engagements at Portsmouth, Bury, in Wales and in 1862 made her London debut at the Surrey Theatre and the Standard Theatre (1863). I see her playing Ophelia at Bath ...

In 1864 (9 February) she married a fellow player, 'Charles Western' veritably James Whistance, and they played together from Sheffield to Glasgow and back to Plymouth, at the Surrey (Desdemona &c) before he died 20 May 1870, aged 31, at East Bridge Street, Truro.

Emma had begun her career as a leading lady in the provinces and she continued, mostly as such, round the country until it was time to take on such roles as La Frochard in The Two Orphans. In the meantime she remarried one William Alfred Bennett (I'm not sure whether he was a 'dentist' or an 'artist'). Apparently she had 7 (minus one) children by him ..

A thoroughly appreciable career as a provincial and suburban leading lady.


OK. That's the most featured folk of Newcombe's season.  So whom do we have left?  Minnie Davis, Frank Seymour, Frank Allen, Mrs E F Saville, Charles Parke, R Thorne, Philip Day (not THE PD?), A Wallace .. haha! F H Neebe! I've encountered him before ... well here goes!


Frank Seymour?  In C61 he is 28, born Commercial Rd, East End ... but shouldn't he be in Plymouth?  Anyway it reeks of pseudonym. So on we go. 1856 he is at Newcastle, 1857 at Cheltenham ('low comedian'). Mrs Frank Seymour does the Highland Fling at Birmingham. 1858 he (I presume it is he) is in the company at the Strand Theatre briefly then .. oh! here he is in Dublin, at Queen's Theatre, with James O'Sullivan who is playing the title role in Ben Bolt and Rolando in The Honeymoon. The two played together in Turning the Tables. The two are still there in 1859, in 1860 Frank is at Newcastle and Liverpool and then Plymouth where .. oh, dear, this is our season! A sneery review saying the men are too young and Wallace and Seymour are the only efficient ones! Emma and Fanny are nodded to, and Minnie Davis is granted 'a nice singing voice' and we learn that, in between our playbills, Marco Spada and Ingomar were given.

January 1862 he is still at Plymouth  ('first rate in burlesque characters') with Lewis Nanton, R Thorne and Miss Robberds. When Hamlet was given, he was the Gravedigger. Sullivan was the Ghost and Emma was Ophelia. At panto time, Frank was Abanazar. 

Off then to Scotland ('the celebrated low comedian'), to Birmingham, Wolverhampton for panto and, good heavens, is that he playing opposite the great Mrs Howard Paul in her act (while Mr Paul was doubtless away 'scouting (female) talent'!. I can see that Frank had a fine career as a comic actor .. I see him playing Sairey Gamp in Dublin in 1866 .. and advertising in tandem with Miss Juliet Power ... 'The smallness of his stature adds largely to the quaintness of his style' ... 1870 panto as Bluebeard at Exeter ... 1871 at the London Royalty .. and there he is in 'Mr Neebe's company' at Weymouth!  I sha'n't enumerate his every engagement for there were many and many, but he played at the Elephant and Castle in 1875, at Greenwich (as co-manager) in 1876 ... well, there doesn't seem to be another Frank Seymour around, so I suppose it is he who becomes stage-manger (ie director in modernspeak), pantomime and drama author attached to the Exter Theatre, and to Eliot Galer's Leicester house ('first comedy and special parts') ... and the Frank who appeared in A Night of Terror at the Avenue (1885) and what? Is that he playing the elderly character role of the General in Van Biene and Lingard's adaptation of La Princesse des Canaries as Pepita (1887). A major touring hit which came into Toole's Theatre and employed him for a long period ... while some fellow advertised himself as 'Frank Seymour, character vocalist and top boot dancer'. 

He carried on into the equally successful Lingard Falka in the plum comic role of Brother Pelican ... until ...  October 1891 'the well-known comedian died last Sunday and was buried at Woking cemetery by the Actor's Benevolent Fund'. Said to be 59. Since that goes with C61, I guess he was ...


Another fine performer winkled out by Mr Newcombe for his season was Minnie DAVIS [DAVIS, Marion Annie] (b Edinburgh 1834; d 188 Belsize Rd, Hampstead 19 December 1915). Daughter of an Edinburgh music teacher, William Davis, and his wife Jane née Hodgkiss, Minnie took her first stage steps in her native town, in seems, 1854, playing Marion in Cramond Brig at the Theatre Royal under Mrs Wyndham. With the occasional break, she remained at the theatre until mid-1859, in roles such as Kitty Clive in Masks and Faces, The Ragpicker of Paris, Mrs Pillicoddy in Poor Pillicoddy, Patty in Fraud and its victims, Dot in Cricket on the Hearth, Lemuel in Flowers of the Forest, Nelly in The Green Bushes, Nancy in Oliver Twist, and her flagship double role of Miss Thistledown and Margery Macfarlane in The Bonnie Fishwife. She also appeared in the pantomimes and in burlesques alongside, notably, Toole and Louise Keeley (Medora in The Corsair, Raleigh in Kenilworth) and in the plethora of comediettas which made up the ever-changing progammes.

She was then engaged by Harry Webb, for the Queen's, Dublin, as first soubrette and there, from 14 September to 6 March 1860, she filled the same variety of roles as at Edinburgh (Betsy in Betsy Baker, Dorothy in No Song, No Supper, Claude Melnotte in a Lady of Lyons burlesque, Rosa in Three Fingered Jack, Betsy in Dick Turpin, Luciana in Two Gentlemen of Verona, plus, of course The Bonnie Fishwife). She was re-engaged to September 1860, and went ... to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where 15 October she made her London 'debut' in Married for Money.

And then came her engagement at Plymouth.

She went back for further engagements is Scotland Sinbad, Aladdin, Audrey in As You Like It, Cregan in a Colleen Bawn burlesque, concerts alongside such patenet opera stars as Pauline Vaneri, Paul Pry, Effie Deans in The Trial of Effie Deans ... travelled to Birmingham and Brighton and at Christmas time returned to London and Sadler's Wells Theatre to play principal boy for Miss Marriott. Over the next years she played much with Miss Marriott and at the Wells, frequently as burlesque and pantomime boys, and also appeared at the suburban Standard Theatre, where the pants parts included that of Macheath in The Beggar's Opera.

And somewhere in there she encountered a young actor (eight years younger than she) by name Edwin Brooke. They were wed in Shoreditch in 1864, and worked together much of the years to come. In those years, Minnie gave birth to six children.

The couple worked steadily in major venues -- Liverpool featuring largely -- with seasons at Sadler's Wells, they toured with Henry Leslie's Old English Comedy Company (Lady Sneerwell, Money &c), with Mrs Bateman 'four seasons', at the Lyceum, the Olympic (Lady McSycophant in The Man of the World), she repested her Fishwife and her Audrey in As You Like It, until in the early 1880s, with three surviving children (Edwina, Gustave, Albert) growing up and her husband not in the best of health, Minnie turned to teaching and 'assisting' amateurs.

Edwin died 30 November 1884 at Bullen Road, Lavender Hill. He was 42. His will says he was really Edwin James Macdonald Brook (with no 'e'). And it left his fortune to Minnie. £584. 

To her dying day, aged 61, Minnie described herself as 'actress'. But there was more sorrow to come in those later years. After having lost three of her children as babies, her elder surviving son Gustave (b 19 January 1874) went to sea as a qualified mate and was lost off the Portland coast, aged 25. Edwina Fanny Lily and Albert Harcourt outlived their mother, and Albert married and had children ..

PS Minnie's younger brother, Charles, who worked alongside her in early days at Edinburgh, drowned aged 23, whe he suffered a fit and fell into the loch. The water was not Minnie's friend.


There is another name on Newcombe's bill which caught my eye. One of the chorus dancers. 'Louise Elliston'. Well, later in her career this young lady worked with Emily Soldene, so I had already investigated her. Louise ELLISTON [MENDES, Sarah] (b Shoreditch c 1835; d Bridge St, South Lynn, 17 August 1899) is said to have trained with Flexmore, travelled with the Ravel(le) troupe at some stage, but comes to my notice first in 1860, dancing Columbine in the Southampton panto. Well, actually, she came to my notice already giving birth to a fatherless child, Thomas Frederick Mendes 7 November 1857. Anyway, she spent two years at Plymouth, it appears, and while there married local actor William Henry Stone, by whom she would have five or six more children while continuing to Columbine (Edinburgh, Standard Theatre, Prince's Manchester, Day's Birmingham) and play the halls as a solo dancer. Mr Stone swapped acting for other trades, but Mrs Stone became entrepreneurial and travelled a troupe, 'the Elliston Family' (a naughty reference to the famous acting family of earlier years), of which daughter [Louise] Maude (b 31 March 1867) was the prominent element. The troupe continued into the 1890s, but Sarah-Louise, who had moved to character roles latterly, while promoting her daughters, suffered an accident with a stage trap in South Wales which ended her performing career. 


So if Louise Elliston was only a chorine at Plymouth, who was Mdlle Aline who was principal danseuse? I didn't think I'd find out .. but it seems I sort of have. Aline? ARCHER (b ?; d Edinburgh 30 January 1866) was a solo and principal dancer between 1857 and her marriage, child birth and resultant death. She was said to be (and why not?) the daughter of Thomas Archer, actor, the wife of Joseph C ('Carl'?) Rowella, actor, and to have been but 23 years old at her death. Which would make her 14 as principal dancer at Cork and Liverpool. To be proven. Thereafter she was featured dancer at Newcastle, Edinburgh, Dublin, Plymouth et al before installing herself as ballet mistress at Edinburgh with the occasional attempt at acting (Mercury in Ixion, Princess in panto) and visits to Sheffield and Liverpool.  ...  Alas, Aline ...





Amongst the other ladies we see Mrs E F Saville in an older role. Mrs Saville was the former Clementina Sobieska GRANT. Her husband Edmund Henry Faucit Saville was by this time deceased. They had been of the Surrey Theatre, the Victoria Theatre and many others, together, up to his death 20 November 1857. She doddled on most successfully  alone, and died in August 1879.


Miss M WALSTEIN confuses me. Is it a real name? If so, a strange choice. A Lavinia Walstein, actress, goodtime girl et al, had died in 1833. And revealed at her post mortem to have been ... a man. This one? 

Well, there had been a few real or pretend Miss Ws since the turn of the century ..  and I suppose she could have been the Miss W at Sadler's Wells in 1861 or the one in Brighton in 1867. Less Likely to be the one floating around in 1881`But, for the moment, I can't be bothered with her.


Frank ALLEN (b Covent Garden c 1828) I spot at Truro in 1858, as Trulove in The Love Chase, Sir Arthur in All that Glitters, Hawkesley in Still Waters Run Deep, and then at Exeter before coming to Plymouth, where he was cast as Danny Man alongside O'Sullivan and Miss Ranoe. He stayed in the south playing mostly villainous roles, and took over the Truro Theatre for one season before continuing to Sheffield (1865), the City of London Theatre (1866) and returning to Plymouth (1867) ...

In the 1861 Plymouth census he has a Scots actress wife, Catherine, aged 19 ... hmmm .... 


I have encountered Lewis NANTON [BROWNSMITH, Nanton Lewis ] (b Finsbury 15 December 1839) and his wife 'Peggy Burette' (Pauline Constance Noemie Barrett) before, because their daughter Kathleen married the memorable comic opera comedian, Walter Passmore. Nanton had but a short career as he died aged 31 (Leeds, 2 April 1871). So he was barely of age, and fresh from clerking at a silk mercery and playing in amateur dramatics in London, during his engagement at Plymouth. In January 1862, he is playing alongside Emma Robberds, Frank Seymour and the Messrs Thorne (in blackface) and Marshall in The Governor's Wife. He spent seasons in Brighton and Portsmouth (Bob Brierley in Ticket of Leave Man, Duke Aranza in The Honeymoon), Birmingham et al, and stepped in for Irving in Formosa at Drury Lane (1869) before taking the role of Micawber (with Pauline as his wife) in the David Copperfield show Lost Emily. He died of 'a burst blood vessel during a fit of coughing'. 


CHARLES PARKE has eluded me so far. He was around in 1855 at Ramsgate playing with the Savilles (Cassio to the Othello of Mr, Claude Melnotte oppostie Mrs, dramatic roles in The Wreck Ashore, The Green Bushes &c) and advertising himsel as 'walking gentleman' of the Marylebone Theatre, Glasgow and Brighton'. Following his stint at Plymouth he got himself a job at Drury Lane, no less, playing the King in Hamlet with Charles Kean. The King not the Ghost. I don't know he got such geographical promotion, and it was a one off, but it permitted him for years to advertise himself as 'of Drury Lane, melodramatic leads and heavies'. I see him at the Liverpool Colosseum, the Leeds Princess's, at the Queen's Manchester as a selection o baddies, at Bolton playing Danny Man, and at Wigan where he took tim out to put on a frock as Clorinda in Cinderella (1865). He played Sweeney Todd at Newport, Shrewsbury, Wigan again, Paisley and Campbelltown, at Dundee as the villain of a new drama The Bells of Shandon, at Halifax for Chute, at Preston and at Dewsbury (Black Frank in Jeannie Deans) but after after 1872, I see him not until 1876 'after his severe accident', again in Scotland. And that's it.  He disappears, and I still don't know who he is. Who he was. I'll keep looking, but wouldn't mind a bit of help! 


Climbing down the bill, we find Charles LLOYDS. We know him, and his elder brother Frederick. Sons of Peter Godfrey Lloyds (d 1865) an accountant in Toxteth Park. I see the family's name was originally LEUTZ. Anyway Frederick LLOYDS (b Liverpool 1819; d Kentish Town 21 December 1894) became a successful scenic artist and Charles (b Liverpool 1821); a perhaps less successful actor. He married an Eliza May EDLIN and died in the seventies it seems ..


Mrs R BARNETT (née WESTON, Eliza [Edwin]) (b Dublin c 1812; d unknown) was at the end of her career in 1861. And it had been a fairly substantial career, almost all of it as Mrs R[ichard] Barnett. the couple had been married at Newchurch, Isle of Wight, in 1834 when they were playing the Ryde Theatre: she as a singer and he musical director. They played togther at Salisbury, Reading and Oxford, and Eliza got a little job at the Adelphi before finding a bolt hole at Sadler's Wells for several seasons ('a very clever little actress'). She moved on to the Garrick, The Victoria, more Adelphi and in 1848 to the City of London Theatre (alongside the Savilles) for nearly a decade (Fool in King Lear) ... I don't know what became of Richard, but by the time of what seems to have been her virtual retirement, their daughter, Emma [Caroline Hickman] Barnett (b 10 January 1840; d Shepherd's Bush, August 1877) , had taken to the stage. She, too, would have a career largely in the suburbs (Marylebone, Princess's, Court, Victoria, Adelphi) as a dramatic actress until her death, aged 37. She was living with Marylebone manager J H Cave, and was found at the bottom of the stairs, bloody and cracked skull. The newspapers had a heyday, the coroner accepted that she had fallen.

I cannot find the 'fullstop' to the careers and lives of Richard and Eliza. In the 1861 census Eliza is in Plymouth, a widow and now a nurse ... and then ...


Frederick Edwin Harrison NEEBE (b Darlington 1843; d Basford 1897) son of a German Lutheram Minister was another neophyte. A clerk in a wine merchant's establishment, he was here beginning a career in the theatre which started as a low comedian (Plymouth, Leicester, Southampton, Blackpool, Liverpool, Halifax &c) and led him to managerial posts ...



Walter Watkins ('Watty') BRUNTON (b London 23 May 1828; d London 18 January 1904) and his wife née Annette Ellen VINCENT (b London 30 June 1836; d Bethnal Green 1 February 1893) had long careers, twelve children several of whom went into the theatre. I'm sure there is a biographical note on Watty somewhere ... anywhere up till the 20th century when he was still active in comedy, drama and pantomime in the suburban theatres.

I have to avow myself beaten by 'Mr G Watson' and the sisters (if they were) Burton, Mr Marshall, Mr Grimani and is the B Lester.  Who else is there?  Mr P DAY. Hmm Phil Day was a musical comedian of worth later in the century. But here is a Mr P Day in 1869 at Holborn. And at the Gaiety in 1870 ... yes, it's he! The same chap. Samuel Phillips DAY (b Cork 1844; d Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Australia 3 December 1887). So he was a teenager at Plymouth. Mr Newcombe knew how to pick them!   This must have been Phil's first job. 



Phil, son of a London 'author and lecturer', had a grand and versatile career: juvenile man at the Princess's Edinburgh and the Prince's, Manchester; King Coal in the Livrpool panto, a long stint (1867-9) at the Royalty Theatre playing juves, character roles (Ikey the Jew) and the comedy leads in the afterpieces, then at Charing Cross with Miss Fowler and as the villain at the Holborn (Roderigo in Othello &c).    In 1872 he joined the company at Hull, and he married Emily MOOREHEAD daughter of a defunct Doctor in the Bengal Army (23 November 1872).
In the 1870s he played at the Adelphi, the Folly, the Aquarium, at Exeter under the manegement of Fred Neebe, in the 1880s he emigrated to Australia .. and there he died of a heart complaint.



The Australian press gave him a sizeable obituary ..


I think they got his date of birth wrong!

Well, that's been fun, bringing a bunch of old playbills to life. Time for a cuppa, and then go see how my gold plated garage cum sleepout is progressing. We were promised windows today ...


And oh, here's another bunch of antique playbills just arrrived on my desk. Shall I, or sha'n't I?

Maybe tomorrow.

PS, does Plymouth have a museum other than a maritime one?














Saturday, February 17, 2024

Edwin and his Emilies ... or, Mr Wilson and his wives

 

Yes, it's that time again. My desktop is bulging with oldtime folk, gathered from around the internet ... so it's time for a clean out ...

Let's begin in Australia, for thats where the grave of the actor/singer/comedian known as Edwin BRETT can be found. At Bateman's Bay, New South Wales.



Theatre historians of NSW, he could do with a little wash and brush up!

The story doesn't begin in Australia, of course. Eddie was an Englishman. Born Edward Bernard WILSON in Shoreditch 3 December 1866, the son of tailor Peter Wilson and his wife Charlotte née Brett. After early life in an office, he took to the stage and I see him in 1888 playing a policeman, a Major-General and a butler in Mark Melford's Kleptomania and Turned Up company. When the troupe played the dramatic The Squire's Wife he took the role of the old Squire (with a death scene). Kleptomania came to London's Novelty Theatre and provided the young character actor with his metropolitan debut. He next went on tour as a Frenchman in Human Nature, played the villain in Robinson Crusoe at Eastbourne and in 1891, in Henry Dundas's Jack in the Box ... In the company was a young lady dubbed 'Emily Constance' [Emily CUSTANCE], and they were married September 19. They spent Christmas in panto as villain and Princess in Dick Whittington at the Brighton Aquarium ...

More of the same followed. I see him as Hatchett in van Biene's tour of Blue-Eyed Susan, in The Trumpet Call, The Plunger as a comic tramp, in Milton Bode's panto (Abanazar, with wife, now 'Custance'), supporting van Biene as Dickson in The Broken Melody ... and on 4 March 1894, Emily gave birth to Marjorie Wilson Brett.


In 1894 he played the star role of Captain Coddington in the tour of In Town, and in 1896 he was Pilkington Jones in Bode's Gentleman Joe. The role of the 'heroine' was taken by Miss Emmeline ORFORD. I presume they began their cohabitation during the tour. While the tour ran on and on, the real 'Mrs Brett' posted their five year-old wedding announcement in the trade press. She had no chance. The unofficial marriage would last for half a century. 

Miss Hook of Holland

Alderman Fitzwarren ('Staring me in the face', 'A funny kind of feeling') at Stratford East, and back to Gentleman Joe with Emmeline, until they went into Bode's next production Orlando Dando as Jonathan Q Jefferson an American millionaire ('I guess he guessed wrong'). And in 1899, when they went on the halls with an act A Ten to One Chance, they were announed as a pair. Emily, defiantly billed as Mrs Edwin Brett, was playing In Old Kentucky, and at Christmas Edwin was giving his Abanazar at Glasgow. The next year it was Dublin, while they swapped their music hall scena for another, On the Quiet.... 



In 1908, the couple took a two-years trip to Australia for J C Williamson (Hook in Miss Hook of Holland, Sergeant Brue, The Belle of Mayfair, pantomimes). They would made five Australian trips in all. . On returning to Britain they went on the road in George's Dance's A Waltz Dream (Count Lothar, Fifi), played more halls, toured variety, he played in High Jinks and The Boy and they toured together in a piece called Petticoat Fair with Walter Passmore (1919). 

In between Australian visits, I spy him in 1925 touring in Patricia, in 1927 in Oscar Asche's The Swordsman (Planchet) ...  In Australia they appeared in musical comedy (The Maid of the Mountains) and pantomime and as late as 1931, he played in Sons o'Guns.

In the 1930s, Edwin appeared in several motion pictures (His Royal Highness, Harmony Row, Diggers in Blighty)

In 1948, the couple made a final visit, from their home in South Benfleet, to the shores of Australia. They were, they said, at last, going to settle there.  Edwin died 20 July 1950. Emmeline -who had finally been billed as 'Mrs Brett' correctly after Emily's death 12 November 1937 -- survived him, and died in Cairns 1 June 1955.