Sunday, January 21, 2018

The 1980s theatre strikes back ...

Today has been a gloriously happy day of 'looking back'.

When you are a theatrical agent, you are not allowed 'favourites' amongst your clients. You have to work for each actor and actress with equal vim and vigour. But, of course, there are some clients who become dear friends as well ... and there you may, if you wish, have favourites!

In the years when I was active on the West End scene, I looked after some fine performers and made some dear friends, and one of these was the delicious Diana Martin. Who could ever forget her performance, for example, as Minerva in the 1983 London revival of the twenties musical Mr Cinders, duetting with and pinging comic sparks off the utterly inimitable Graham Hoadly? Or as the coloratura telegraph girl in the film Brazil (1985)?

I retired from agenting and went off to write mega-books in the south of France. A couple of years later Diana, who had carried on soubretting until her mid 30s, decided to 'grow up' and became a business lady, married, had a daughter ... and we sort of lost contact. Until the invention of Facebook.

This year, with retirement looming, Diana and Barry decided on a New Zealand tour. It ended today in Christchurch, but not before they had grabbed the most efficient of Uber drivers (Christchurch taxis are inefficient and overpriced) and driven out to ... Gerolstein!

And so, we had three hours together, catching up, flinging memories about, wandering round the acres meeting the animal population, and so forth, fuelled by good old Jacob's Creek chardonnay  ... the merriest of times!

I may bear the traces of a stroke, Diana has arthritis and hip replacements, but for three hours we were Kurt and Diana of the 1980s, making recordings together at Chappells -- the original demo of Peg, Leslie Julian Jones's A Queen for Sunday, Peter Coe's Husbands and Lovers, The Geisha -- such happy memories.

And now Diana and Barry are on a plane, headed for Warwickshire ... until next time, dear friends!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Books in the blood

I have always, since an early age, been connected with writing and books. My juvenilia were published in the New Zealand press, and even in some Enid Blyton magazine (I forget which), my first slim volume of drama was published when I was seventeenish … which must be about the same age that the work of my poet brother, the now celebrated John Gallas, was unleashed on the world. It was just something we ‘always did’, alongside music, athletics, theatre … I blame our Jewish ancestry.

Well, I took an initial turn towards music and theatre, and notably musical theatre, and was in my late twenties before, thanks to my mentor Ian Bevan, I again began writing seriously. The bulging result can be seen on amazon or Wikipedia.

John has gone from prize to prize and volume to volume, and to the very top of his tree.

 Strange, in a way. None of our immediate family was a writer. Great-grandfather Stojetz penned lengthy ‘Social Democratic’ and ‘Naturfreund’ pieces for the devoted Viennese press, but …

It wasn’t until I dug further into our ancestry that the books in the background started to appear, notably through our great-grandmother’s connection with the famous Rosenbaum publishing and printing family of Vienna.

 But today I found another author, also on the Jewish side of our family, to whom we are related. Admittedly only by marriage. So far, he is only a name to me, but I shall work on it.

Israel Gánsl of Mór, Fejér, Hungary had four sons. Abraham Hirsch otherwise Hermann (1800), Josef (1807), Ignáz (1813) and Fulop (1817). Josef’s grandson, also Josef, was my grandfather. But the big boy of the family was eldest son, Hermann. In the church registers, he can be seen godfathering and circumcising a wide circle of local children. His son, Mór or Moritz also took a prominent place in similar circles, and himself gave birth to five daughters and finally one son, Aladár (1886).

I haven’t yet discovered why, but Aladár changed his name from Gánsl (just as my father did), and called himself Aladár Gáspár, so that his daughter was born Julianna Gáspár (1930). And Julianna married a gentleman named Miklós Marót. Who, unless I have muddled my Miklóses, is the author of the standard guidebook to Budapest.

He is apparently also the father of Edit Tüske, and Ezster Marót and the grandfather of Annamária Adrienn Tüske, who, if they are still around, would be the first living descendants of the Gánsls of Mór, apart from John and myself, whom I have ever tracked down.

Hello, cousins! 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sixteen of 'em! A complete set of great-great-grandparents!

Today, brother John and I unearthed (not literally) our final great-grandparent. Yes, we now have a wholly complete set of sixteen. Nobody famous, nobody in any way outstanding, but a selection covering (allowing for changing borders) Hungarian Jewish (one), Romanian Jewish (one) German Jewish (one), Czechoslovakian Jewish (one), Austrian (two), Czechoslovakian (two), and Scottish – oh Scottish! – eight. The whole of our mother’s contribution.

So, here we go. Here they all are. Starting with numbers one and two, the bearers down the years of the Gänzl surname, which, in those days, was spelled Gánsl. Our direct male line. (1) Josef Gánsl, tailor, in the wine-growing village of Mór, Fejér, in Hungary. And (2) his wife Leni, née Lip(p)mann from Temesvár in what is now Romania. The Gánsls were soundly based in Mór and had been for several generations before, I gather, the place was ‘purified’. I’m not sure how Leni got there.

 (3) and (4) are the other Jewish branch. Adam Rosenbaum, variously a ‘Kaufmann’ (merchant) in Königsberg and Eger, later a Papierhändler at Opernring 21, Vienna, later a bankrupt … and his wife, Katharina Schwei(t)zer from what is now Nové Sedlo, Czechoslovakia, who lived to the age of 91. And who produced the prolifically blossoming line of the family with which I identify the most closely, including the famous Brüder Rosenbaum, printers and publishers …

1863. Adam in Eger.
The next pair are Viennese. (5) Josef Stogetz or Stojetz was latterly a ‘Werkführer at the kk National Bank’, and previously a locksmith. Of his wife, (6) Margarethe Böhm, apart from the fact that she bore a plethora of children (of whom only one survived) before her death aged 36, I haven’t yet discovered any further details. But I’m trying.

1856. Josef the locksmith.
And the final European pair are the (nowadays) Czechs. (7) József Baumgartner was from the place now called Zatek, and his wife, (8) Maria König, hailed from I know not where. There is something of a question mark hanging over these two, for they had a four-fold family of their own, but seem to have handed our great-grandmother over for ‘fostering’ by Adalbert Tesar of Vienna. However, said great-grandmother (as Marie Baumgartner-Tesar) confirmed on her wedding certificate that József was her father, and left out reference to her mother. Hmmm. Question mark.

And the sum total of those four couples was our father.

And mother? Well, when our parents’ DNA came to us we nodded sagely at Father’s. A big blob in central Europe.

 But were amazed at the diversity in Mother’s! Because to our knowledge, in the last three centuries, nearly everybody on every side of her ancestry belonged to Perthshire, Aberdeenshire and Angus. Rattray, Ballintuim, St Vigeans, Scone, Blairgowrie … In the 17th century one ancestor was running the Black Bull Tavern in Dyce. How does one get more Caledonian?

Vikings, Arabs ... what is this?

First come the Welsh or Welch family, (9) Robert and his wife (10) Mary née Taylor. Solidly Scone, and solidly into the tailoring business. For generations. My grandfather’s brother (who was a plumber) lived in the family house at 15 Queen’s Rd, Scone, right up to his death in 1961. Maybe there are Welshes there still!

Number 15 is second from the right
They married into the Hudgston (spelt multiple ways) family. (11) David Hudgston (‘heckling machine foreman’) hailed from West Mill Wynd in St Vigeans, and he and his wife (12) Jane Steel née Cramond from Arbroath are my next pair. Yes, our family was heavily into flax and jute, as was a large part of the population of the area. Some made it to foreman or mechanic, some spun, some heckled, but it was flax and its products all the way.

St Vigeans churchyard
East Mill Wynd, St Vigeans

(13) Andrew Anderson was the last Great-great-Grandparent whom we tracked down. Because someone either lied, or he spent much of his life in France. No, not living it up, but working as – yes -- a flax-spinner in a jute mill. But we dug up his son’s Glasgow marriage certificate which revealed his identity and that of his late wife, (14) Ann. We won’t be pursuing her family, because she was surnamed Smith. Which makes it sound as if he were wed at home.

Kirkmichael Hotel
And finally there were the Morrisons. Linen-warper (15) Alexander, of Kirkmichael and his wife Margaret Howe née McGregor of Rattray. I knew we had to have a Mc in there somewhere. Grandma always told us that our clan was the McGregor and mother even confectioned us shirts in the clan tartan. But it never seemed quite right to me. I’m afraid that, in that way, I am my father’s son. Golden-haired John inherited most of the Scots heritage, black and dramatic Kurt the Jewish. Of course, now neither of us has hair at all.

So, there we are, a complete set, at last. The satisfaction of a stamp collector reigns. Well, it may not be a bundle to set the Maitai River on fire, but it is kind of fun to know about one’s background, of all the elements that came together to result in Kurt Gänzl and John Gallas …