Sunday, May 13, 2018

Isabel Reddick or, The Baker's Daughter of Islington

It’s all David Stone’s fault. I’ve got stuck in letter ‘R’ of his archive …

But it’s also the fault of that shipping list. The one of the vessel taking the D’Oyly Carte company to New York, to play Utopia (Ltd), and including Reddick, Miss Isabel aged 20, who was to play Princess Zara, and Reddick, Mrs Isabel aged 40, clearly her mother. Miss Reddick was very much liked as Zara, on both sides of the Atlantic, so I was a little surprised to find nothing about her before her D’Oyly Carte experience, and very little after. That ‘very little’ was basically a job in the hit musical An Artist’s Model, playing a supporting part and understudying Miss Marie Tempest in the piece’s title-role, after which she was supposed to head the Edwardes company to South Africa ... end of story. Died? Married? It’s usually one or the other.

Well, of course, I couldn’t let it stay that way. Isabel became today’s mission. All I had to go on was that shipping list, and this little article which appeared in The Era newspaper.

Both are a load of codswallop.

Her name wasn’t Reddick … why on earth choose such a stage name? It sounds like one of Aristophanes’s frogs … she was almost 30, not twenty, when she went to America, and she had been around the ultra-minor London concerts for some eight years. As for Lamperti and Marchesi … hmm … when? And if so, why didn’t she splash them over her pre-Zara concert ads? As for ‘being heard’ by the likes of Grossmith and Sullivan. Yes, that is undoubtedly true, even if the circumstances given are not. Isabel had figured on concert bills with such as Rutland Barrington, Decima Moore, Charles Manners, John Child, Lucille Saunders … she would scarcely have been unknown in D’Oyly Cartland.

So lets dump all the ‘biography’ as given, and start from zero.

St John's Street Road

Isabel Rayner was born at 127 St John’s Street Road, Goswell Road, on 14 March 1865. She was the second daughter of the family: her elder sister, Mary Ann, dating from 3 February 1862. Their father was a Ramsgate-born baker named Edward Rayner (1828-1869), their mother Mary Ann née Hutchison (m 1859), and the couple can be seen baking at the St John’s Road address in the 1861 census. After the birth of the two girls, however, Edward died, aged 38, and mother ‘remarried’ a Mr Bell. The marriage seems to have been mislaid by officialdom. Anyway, by the time she went to court ‘confectioner of St John’s Rd’, in September 1870, to bear witness against a lassie who had tried to pass her a dud half-crown, she was Mrs Bell. And by 1871 they have gone from St John’s Street Road. She would later give up baking for running a boarding house (1881 she’s in Gower Street, 1891 in Upper Bedford Street, so pretty fair quality).

The girls are with her in 1881, and soon they are out in the music world. My first sighting is in January 1885, when they appeared in Orsett alongside some musical Scruby children, and then in 1886 (7 December) Isabel turns up at Kensington Town Hall at a concert given by a pianistic Edith Bell. Lindsay Sloper played and Edith Marriott and Percy Palmer were on the short list of singers. I spot Isabel again 16 May 1889 at Stroud, singing ‘The years at the spring’ alongside Eleanor Rees and Thomas Brandon, and then at Henry Leslie’s promenade concerts on a bill with no less than Edward Lloyd, in 1892 (29 June) at Mr Graham Price’s concert at St James’s Hall Banqueting Room, with Belle Cole and Hirwen Jones, and 16 November in a charity performance of a mainly amateur The Statue of Albermarle at the Trafalgar Square Theatre (‘deservedly encored for her sweetly expressive treatment of a song’) where the professionals included Claire Solomon and Sylvia Grey. Rutland Barrington gave a W S Gilbert scena to follow.

During 1893, she turns up for Wilhelm Ganz at then Society of Female Artists, at a flash bazaar at Whitehall in fine company, and at the home of the social Mrs Ronald Taylor’s, pianist, composer and cookery writer, amid aristocratic amateurs, including Edmond Deprêt and ‘Marie de Lido’ …

And then Miss Rayner became Miss Reddick, and went on the stage. I shouldn’t imagine that mama, with her boarding house, nor widowed sister objected!

David has summarised her brief but successful career with the Carte organisation, which was followed by the highly promising engagement with George Edwardes, and I presume the trip to Africa, then … yes, she married. On 23 July 1896, Isabel wed Scotsman William Dalrymple. Mr Dalrymple was into gold. In a fairly big way, I understand. Whether he was already on his way to becoming Sir William Dalrymple KBE, deliciously rich, social, globe-trotting and glamorously-living, already at this stage, or whether that came later, I am not sure, but there will be a South African book somewhere..

Isabel, thus, became Lady Dalrymple of Johannesburg, and glamorously globe-trotted with her husband, producing four or five children on the way (all scrupulously recorded as the children of the ‘aristocracy’ are) into the happily every after. Splendid! And a long way from Orsett and the Scruby children, and the bakery and confectionary in Islington. Isabel died 30 December 1938. William survived her by some three years.

Sister Mary Ann, who remarried, one of her mother’s boarders, Senjiro Watanabe, from Yokohama, survived them all and died 24 November 1951.

Still looking for Mary Ann Bell ….

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