Monday, October 12, 2020

Miss Marguerita Beatrice de Wyndale. Wot?

We all love a good mystery.

Especially when it gets solved, after hours of digging.

The mystery began when, following up the story of Alice Barth for Glenn Christodoulou and this week's blog, I spotted this advertisement ...

Madge Stavart we know all about, but Miss who? At the Savoy Theatre? Never heard of her. I emailed the G&S personnel guroi -- George Low, David Stone, Jeff Clarke ... no one had heard of 'Marguerita'. Of course, the Cartesian programmes sadly didn't list the choruses, and if this lady were a Savoyard, she was clearly a chorine. But ... chorines advertise? Marguerita clearly had Ambition. And it seems, indeed, that she was right so to have. Following her stint at the Savoy (the ads go from late October to late January), she was engaged at the Philharmonic: Agnes Maydew in G Lash Gordon's London Pride, Sir Walter Raleigh in Little Amy Robsart, Lord Haricot in G Lash Gordon's Nightbirds, Phil in G Lash Gordon's De-Lights of London. Mr Gordon evidently liked her. He actually liked her a lot, but we'll get to that part of the tale in due course. 

From the Phil, Marguerita continued to the Royalty to appear in Sindbad with Harry Nicholls and Fannie Leslie, and thence to the Gaiety, where I see her playing in Done on Both Sides with Frank Wyatt and Harry Monkhouse and then in the burlesques Valentine and Orson and Little Doctor Faust, playing Rudolph behind Edward Terry, Nellie Farren, Kate Vaughan and the theatre's other stars. When Teddy Solomon's Virginia and Paul was put up, July 16 1883, Rita was in the supporting cast, as Amy, behind Lillian Russell. 

At Christmas, she took the title-role in Little Goody Two Shoes at Sunderland. Sunderland liked Miss Rita Wyndale (as she had now become) as an actress, rather less as a singer. I'm not sure what she was doing in 1884 (though I have my suspicions), but she was back by Christmas, playing Bohea in Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow behind Harriet Lauri and Juliette Piemonte. And next thing, Mr and Mrs George Lash Gordon (yes, it was Rita) were on their way to Buenos Aires, Rosario and San Nicolas, for an English plays season. They had a good time, being Mr and Mrs Gordon away from prying eyes, so it is little surprise to find them, soon after, turning up in that haven of de factos, Australia. As members of the first Brough and Boucicault company ... and there they stayed.

So I shall take a pause to tell you who Rita actually was. Naturally, she was neither Marguerita or de Wyndale. Her birth name was Margaret Beatrice Richardson, and she was born in Pancras in 1861, the illegitimate daughter of one Margaret Richardson. Miss Richardson can be seen to have farmed her baby out with the family of a coach-painter named Fuller. Fourteen years later, she married Mr Charles Windle or Windale Jackson, a smalltime lawyer of Gray's Inn. Maybe he was the father. He died two years later (6 November 1877) so maybe he was just 'doing the decent thing'. Anyway, when Rita married, the following year, she did so as Jackson, and quoted Charles as her father.

I haven't chased up Christopher Wilson (b 33 Talbot Rd, Kentish Town 19 May 1859). He doesn't stay in the story long, and the 38 pages documenting his divorce case against Rita, for adultery with Mr Charles Livingstone Gilks, who I see was an 'advertising agent', make a sad story. The Queen's Proctor  intervened, the names of the ladies with whom little Christopher had been screwing around got a dip in the mudbucket, the judge cancelled the decree ...  all of which meant that, when Rita met George at the Phil, she was a married woman, and the best they could manage was a bit de facto. So Rita Richardson otherwise Jackson otherwise Wilson never could become Rita Gordon.

George had a fine career in Australia, both as an actor and a playwright, until his sudden death from a burst blood vessel 18 March 1895. His funeral was well-covered in the press, but there was no mention of Rita. Condolences were proffered to his mother, sister Bessie Lash Gordon (Mrs S E Hartnoll) took an ad in the Australian papers ... but his 'wife'? Rita put her own ad in the local press 'inserted by Madame Rita Wyndale'. 

Rita didn't have to teach very long. The following year (7 January 1896) she married (was Mr Wilson dead, then?) the widowed James ('Sunny Jim') Anderson Cragg of the City Club Hotel, 'one of Melbourne's oldest bookmakers', fisherman, golfer, billiard player and all-round well-liked bloke. Jim died at Findon Street, Kew, 16 March 1935, at the age of 75, Rita 27 July 1950, aged -- as we know -- 89.

A long way from the Strand, and the Savoy and the Gaiety Theatres ...

Amd no, I have no idea why facebook insists on crazy line-spacing.

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