Sunday, May 6, 2018

The true, sad tale of a Carte comedian ..

One thing leads to another. Always. ‘Geraldine St Maur’ led me to Kate Jancowski-Forster and now she … well, she actually led me to Penzance, where one of the D’Oyly Carte touring companies was performing on census night. So all the cast members were in digs in the town, and were going to fall easily into my net … huh! Kate was sharing digs with Frank [William Line] Tebbutt (25), Frank Lynne (26, born Regents Park), and his wife Mary (23) from Liverpool; James Lawrence Gridley (32) and Henry E Bellamy (28) are rooming together down the road, ‘Louie Lytton’, his wife Henrietta and daughter Ida are there, and Florence J Perry and her sister Beatrice Mary too … all straightforward? Actually, at least two are not. But where is Edward Clowes? Surely that’s his real name. I mean he’s Edward Clowes in the 1881 census, with a Swedish wife who is a member of the Carte chorus. So, where is he in 1891? And come to think of it, where did he arrive from, and where did he go, and whatever became of him?

David Lovell sent me this great photo of Clowes and Miss Forster in YEOMEN
Well, of course, if I didn’t have the answers I wouldn’t be writing this wee piece. But he took some finding. And it was the wife that caused the click needed. Edward is in the 1891 census, in Penzance, with his wife and 5 year-old daughter. But this time he has chosen to use his real name! And his wife has decided now that she wasn’t Swedish at all, but born in Holloway.

Charles Edward Parslee was born in the village of Hopton in Suffolk, one of the five children of Frederick Burrell Parslee and his wife Emily née Willson. Mr F B Burrell (Esq) was something of a provincial notable. He was a bank clerk and then the local manager for the banking house of Gurney and Co, a church warden, secretary of the local Cricket Club and of the Volunteer Rifle Corps, chairman of the parish vestry, vice chairman of the Halesworth Easter Tea …and he (with the help of three servants) brought up five children, for Mrs Burrell died 1 January 1855, aged just 35, when Edward was but 3 years old.

Edward was brought up to follow in his father’s wake. In 1871 he is a ‘bank accountant’, and later that year I see Sergeant Parslee singing at a Volunteers beanfeast. However, by now he was an orphan. Mr Parslee senior died 7 September 1871. Edward stuck around Suffolk for a while – I see him singing at local amateur concerts, singing ‘Ai nostri monti’ amongst others! – but then he is gone from my ken …

David Stone ( picks up the story (withe this splendid photo):

‘Edward Clowes was a chorister, understudy and small part player for a number of D'Oyly Carte touring companies from September 1879 to July 1885. From August 1885 until he left the D'Oyly Carte organization for good in November 1893 he toured in leading bass-baritone roles’.

Clowes as  Despard to the Mad Margaret of Haidee Crofton
And he goes on to give the precise details of his distinctly successful years with the Carte companies.

The company seems to have provided him, too, with the Swedish wife from Holloway. Ada Eliza Gyllenship was born in London in 1860, daughter of Mr Gustavus Adolphus Gyllenship, of Gyllenship’s Library, Early Newspaper Office and Fancy Depot (No 1 Bowman’s Place); and she wed Edward 21 January 1880 at Horsham. She performed as ‘Ada Seaton’. They produced a daughter, Winifred Ada, at Leicester in 1885.

I don’t know what became of Edward after he left Carte. He was only in his forties. Although I have vague memories of seeing 'E Clowes' somewhere in my musical-theatre meanderings. Ada stayed on with Carte and departed from the company only after 1898. Maybe she departed from Edward too. Maybe even from life. I see him in the 1901 census, alone, in Lambeth ‘actor, 49’. Winifred is farmed out on Ada’s 80 year-old mother. By 1911, Sarah Gyllenship is in the workhouse, where she died the following year at 92. Winifred is ‘visiting’. She, too, would soon be dead, at the age of 30. And Edward? Alas, it was all downhill. He, too, is in the workhouse in 1911, in Lambeth, and he seems to have been a regular inmate at that institution (‘engineer’s labourer’) through the 1910s and, I imagine, up to his death in 1923.

A sad end for a man born with, at least, a silver-plated spoon between his teeth, and who had delighted the provinces as ‘the very model of a modern major general’, the Punka of The Nautch Girl and the like for nearly a decade.

PS The family historians insist that Ada lived to 101. Sorry, chaps, wrong lady. That lady was a Parsloe.

No comments: