Saturday, April 4, 2020

Cartesians: The gentleman's chorus 1897

Having done rather better than expected with the ladies, today I have attacked the men. Ten of them. And mostly occasional small part players. Allen, Lebreton, Brand, Ford, Lucas, Harman, Patterson, Rose, Wake, Morland.  So, out of ten? Three, straightforward. Two, needed a little prising to come out of their pseudonyms. One not 100% sure of identification. Three unable to confirm identification. One absolutely hopeless case (Patterson).

Let's start with the straightforward ones.

[Robert] Lindsay HARMAN (b Bromley 9 August 1865; d Fakenham 25 February 1948). Harman's career is detailed on the g&s archive site, and he wrote a book (which I have not read) My Comic Opera Life (1924) which may have all the facts of his working life therein. But probably not his private life. He was born in Bromley, the first of six children of photographer, Robert Vine Harman and his wife Martha née Ward. He seems to have joined the company in 1889 or 1890. What he did before that, I don't know. Anyway, having joined, he travelled to America for the short run of The Gondoliers, and then set out touring Britain. And 13 October 1890, in Belfast, he married Miss Alice Margaret Pennington, a supporting principal (Tessa &c) with the company.

They had two children, Margaret Lindsay Harman (3 August 1892) and Jack Pennington Harman (23 March 1895) before Alice began to stray. In 1912, Harman instituted divorce proceedings which became final in 1916. Alice had waltzed off to India, presumably with her paramour, Robert had the children and, swiftly a more congenial young wife, Eleanor Winifred Mary Cracroft (1890-1961), by whom he had two further children.

Harman and Winifred
After leaving the performing world in 1901, Harman took to directing and coaching amateurs, which apparently takes a large place in his book.
Son Jack was killed in the first world war, aged 21, while daughter Margaret enlisted in the Women's Flying Corps.

[Vincent] Buchanan WAKE (b Withington 19 December 1864; d The Barrows, Highbridge Rd, Burnham-on-sea 11 January 1940) was also the son of a photographer and artist, Joseph Wake, from Goole, and his wife Jane Buchanan née Currie, and was intended for the church. In the 1881 census, he is a theological student. The stage seems to have held greater attractions, and I see him touring between 1890 and 1892 in W B Redfearn's modest Dorothy company (star: Cissie Saumarez, and featuring Henry Leffler). In 1893, he was with T G Bailey's even more modest Rip van Winkle company, and the opera company headed by 'Ilma Norina' (Josephine Muntz) purveying Count Tremolio (Dr Figrardo) and The Bohemian Girl. He was billed as 'of the Lyric Theatre and other London theatres'. Really?  Next stop was the Carte company, and his eight years of service are documented in the archive.
Over the next decade he toured in the best musical comedies of the day -- Three Little Maids, The Orchid, The Girl from Kay's (Theodore Quench), The Gay Gordons (Archibald Speedy) -- before moving into plays. Tiny parts in town, and character roles on the road. And lots of them. My last sighting of him is in 1936, at the Shaftesbury Theatre, playing the Clerk of the Court in the Yvonne Arnaud/Ronald Squires play Laughter in Court. And in 1939, just before his death, he complains from his retreat in Somersetshire that he is 'actor, unemployed'.
There are no tales of wives, children and divorces here. Vincent Wake stayed single all his life and devoted himself -- for fifty years -- to the theatre.

George BRAND (RUSTON, George Brand) (b Dulwich 22 April 1848; d Coventry 30 April 1898).
was born in Dulwich, the son of Thomas Ruston, corn and seed factor, and his wife Rebecca née Haward. He began his working life following his father's trade, but at some stage switched to the theatre. 'George Brand' was the name of the hero of the ten-year touring drama (1882) The Wages of Sin. I don't know whether he had taken his stage name earlier. I also don't know when he took to the stage. In 1882 he's registered at 63 Gauden Rd, Clapham, with his mother (father had died in 1879). So perhaps he's still corn factoring. My first sightings of him on stage are in 1885 with F H Macklin touring in Led Astray and Clancarty, in 1886 with Miss de Grey and in 1888-9 with Mr Hershfield's Comedy and Burlesque Co, in South Africa. 1891-1898 are his Carte years, -- see him at the Ely Hotel, with the company in Penzance, in 1891 -- ended by his death in Coventry at the age of 50. With the convenient epitaph ...

There was a suprising amount of work involved in rooting out Henry LEBRETON [BRETT, Henry] (b High Holborn 20 June 1861, a twin) but I have still not found his death notice.

Henry Brett (and twin Richard Higgs Brett) were born in High Holborn to Henry Richard Brett and his wife Harriet Foster née Shattock. Henry Richard was in the distilling and wine trade -- it ran in the family, his father had been a brandy merchant -- and it was there than Henry junior first was employed. In the 1881 census, he is clerk to his father. However, a nice light tenor voice sparked ambition for a career as a concert singer, and in 1886 (10 May) Henry mounted the first of several London concerts which he would essay in the next years.

He was clearly venturing onto the edge of the 'society semi-pro' entertainment -- Power, Grossmith, Coffin, Patti Winter were all adepts at that sort of thing -- and those that followed, both his own (23 May 1888, 13 June 1890) and those few at which he appeared at venues such as the posh Lyric Club or St George's Hall had similar casts -- Coffin, Brownlow, Alec Marsh, Jack Robertson, Kellie, Ernest Birch, Power ... and now and then a lady, such as Geraldine Ulmar or Annie Albu.

But, soon after that first concert, Henry had already started working for Carte. Ruddigore at Liverpool, the press reported when he was given time off to take the tenor lead in an unambitious new G&S clone, The Royal Watchman, at Exeter for Sidney Herberte-Basing (April 11). Three tour dates and the show was done, and he returned to Carte. And his wife.
Wife is quite a tale. Her name was Mary Louise Currans (stage name: 'Mary Thornton'), and her mother, née Mary Elizabeth Barrett, having buried Mr Currans was now Mrs Frederick Chandler (decorator) of ... Gauden Rd! And that is where we find the two of them -- post-Carte -- in the 1891 census. With baby.

Henry has renounced the stage and gone back to the wine business. But not for long. He picked up a shop at the Criterion Theatre where he appeared in tiny parts in several of their hit plays (First Waiter in Pink Dominos, Bence in The Bauble Shop), and when La Mascotte was briefly transferred from the Gaiety to the Criterion, Mr Lebreton took over from Fred Stanley the role of Mathéo.
La Mascotte must have given Henry back his taste for music, for in 1894 he (and, apparently, his wife) rejoined Carte, for four years. The archive tells us he subsequently worked for the organisation in an office capacity. And then ... The house at 10 Gauden Road, in 1901, holds only Mr Chandler, a new wife, a new step-daughter ...

I don't know where they went, mother, father and baby Henry. Oh! Mary Louise Brett 45, married, scratched out and replaced by widow; housekeeper to Charles Sydney Leigh, 50, managing director of a music hall ... 1911. Birth 1865, Strand, married 1887, 3 children, one living ... Philip Henry (b 31 October 1890 at Gauden Rd died as an infant ... ) ... it has to be she! So, is Henry dead? Is she a widow or just a 'widow'? One mystery solved, to be replaced by another. A Mary Louise Brett died in Folkestone in 1949 ... and Henry?

Sometimes, however, luck and persistence win. I accomplished a minor miracle in uncovering John MORLAND [BARRAS, John Dixon] (b Low Fell, Gateshead 1870; d Islington 1927).

Mr 'Morland' had a fairly unobtrusive career in the theatre, but I've picked up trace of him with a theatre company in America in 1895 and he spent 1896-9 as a chorister with Carte. In 1901 he still considered himself an 'operatic singer' so maybe he got another job after that.
He was born in Low Fell, Gateshead, which explains the nom de théâtre. Former bacon factor John Morland had been the wealthy occupant of the local Westmorland House. But he didn't need his name any more: he had died in 1878. So John Dixon Barras borrowed it.
He was one of the ten children of a painter (houses) from Sunderland, also yclept John Dixon Barras, and his wife Catherine Jameson née Gillies, and at age 20 he was working up north as a clerk in coal filler. Until he took up the stage. He also married a lady called Emily and had a daughter, Doris Olga (b 22 March 1896, d 1929 Mrs Hugh Lloyd Roberts). I spot the three of them in 1911, by which time John had become a 'dealer in wholesale provisions', heading for Buenos Aires. By the time Doris is married, just before John's death, he describes himself as a 'research chemist'. Not exactly a structured career.

So, those are the five who are more or less sorted. Now come the lesser five.

Frederick W FORD is the one I'm not 100% sure of. After he leaves the Carte (1898-1902), an F W Ford tours for nearly a decade in older character parts in mostly musicals. It feels as thought it ought to be he... General Marchmont in The School Girl, Sir Peter in The Cingalee, Sheik Jawan in Kismet, Lord Chancellor in A Chinese Honeymoon ... my last sighting is playing in Eliza Comes to Stay in 1917. So he ought to be findable on tour in Plymouth in 1901 and 1911. Yessssss .. there he is in Plymouth! Frederick W Ford 40, chorister, b Middlesex. In a lodging house, which also houses (whose?) wardrobe mistress Josephine O'Brien. Hmmm. Could be a landlady's guesses ... and, of course, no prrof it's a real name.

As for Walter ROSE, his biggest splash came when he jumped in the water (with his pipe in his mouth) to resue a drowning boy at Orwell. He surfaces occasionally in supporting roles in Utopia (Ltd), The Grand Duke, The MikadoThe Gondoliers et al between 1894-8, but didn't hang around for the census, so I can't even guess his real name.

'Mr Allen' ought to be the long-serving Reginald ALLEN. But the archive says he was not with the company in 1897-8, and like Mr Rose he is shy of censi.

Harvey LUCAS played, off and on, with the Carte companies for twenty years (see archive). But he didn't do censi either. Not under that name, anyhow. I thought he might be something Harvey Lucas, and trawled through all such folk from fishmonger to bible seller. Nothing. I even tried Lucas Harvey. He is Harvey Lucas in 1886 (first understudy to Nanki Poo). In 1901 (Patience), he's still there, alongside Reginald Allen and Frederick Ford (all 2 pounds a week) and Buchanan Wake (2 pounds 10s, extra 10s for playing Murgatroyd).

I have foreborne even to try to find Mr [J] PATTERSON. One assumes he is not the J Patterson of Bangor who played the piccolo, or the one playing clown in Hanley, or even the one in the Peel Minstrel troupe in the Isle of Man. There's one in Robert Arthur's One of the Best company in 1899... bah!

Of course, digging about in old stuff for my ten men, I, on the way, encountered a bunch of other Cartesians and, of course, got sidetracked ...

The witnesses to the fated Harman-Pennington marriage, in Belfast in 1890 were Jessie Bell LUPTON (b London 14 August 1866; d Nursing home, Reading 16 September 1959) and [Mark] Albert KAVANAGH (b London 1866; d 26 January 1922)

Jessie seems to have stayed but a short while with the company, although both she and of one her younger sisters, Nellie, posited 'operatic singer' in the 1891 census. They were the daughters of Peter John Lupton, a hair goods manufacturer from Harrogate, and apart from their little venture into singing seem to have simply been stay-at-home daughters if and until marriage. However, I see from shipping lists that Jessie travelled to the east in her 60s ...

Kavanagh, of course, as Albert rather than Mark, had a vast career with Carte (see archive). He also had one of those unfortunate marriages within the company. His temporary (1898 Fylde) wife was Mabel Grace BILLING (b Hailsham 1876; d Tayport, Fife 5 August 1931), daughter of a physician and a chorus girl as 'May' Billings. She abandoned Kavanagh during the South African tour of 1902, and in 1904 (apparently without the benefit of divorce) married one Frederick S Stephen. Albert listed himself in the 1911 census as 'single'.

I was surprised to come upon a rather substantial one in Percy CARR (b Kingston-on-Thames 25 August 1873; d Saranac Lake, NY, 22 November 1926). And yes, it was his real name. Son of Henry Carr, glass lead merchant and his wife Martha née Legg. Percy started life as a draper's apprentice before joining up with the Carte organisation as a baritone chorister and small part player for four years. But from there, his fortunes rose. He went into touring musical comedy as a leading man -- Kitty Grey (Sir John Binfield), Three Little Maids (Brian Molyneux), The Earl and the Girl (Dick Wargrave), Miss Hook of Holland (Van Vuyt), My Mimosa Maid (Emile Gerard), Little Hans Anderson, The Merry Peasant with Courtice Pounds, The Chocolate Soldier (Bumerli), The Girl in the Taxi ..

Then, guess what, his marriage came unstuck rather publicly. He had married musical and comedy actress 'Madeline Rees' (Madeline Cordela Granville PORTLOCK, Trilby, A Gaiety Girl, Tom Dick and Harry, The Middleman, The White Blackbird) in 1902, but after a decade decided that he wasn't coming home any more. Maddie tried to get him back, but he wouldn't. He carried on in The Girl in the Taxi, Hello Aberdeen!, See-Saw, as Richard Willard in the London musical Suzette and the revue LSD while she teamed with Agnes Fraser and Walter Passmore in the wartime The Soldier's Mess et al.
In 1919, he was cast as Captain Badger in Messager's Monsieur Beaucaire at the Prince's Theatre, following which the production was taken to New York's New Amsterdam Theatre. He returned to America in 1921, and stayed, appearing as Athos in The Three Musketeers, Blount in Persons Unknown, in the Duncan Stock Company in Toronto and as Walter Welch in Hurricane with 'Olga Petrova' (1924). He also appeared briefly in the odd film (One Exciting Night, The Ragged Edge, Versailles). He died in 1927.

Madeline remarried. Her husband was by name Denis Browne. She died, aged 81, in 1962.

Off to bed. An hour off the clock tonight so I'll sleep long to get the energy to tackle another bunch tomorrow ..

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