Thursday, July 9, 2020

Cartesians: One madhouse, one suicide, one flight, uncountable infidelities and even a bit of singing

After some thirty articles, I'm having to weed through the nineteenth-century Cartesians remaining on David Stone's website to find candidates for 'investigation'. Some folk, of course, are bricked-up forever behind pseudonyms, the stories of others are already well-known, I'm trying to take the middle ground, and it's getting a little bare.

However, today I can offer Gater, O'Byrne, Osborne, two Wadmores and Miss Symons ... facts but, sadly, no pictures ... so, here goes ...

Albert [Arthur] GATER (b 1 Warndle Street, Croydon 5 February 1870; d Wandsworth 31 March 1930) is one of those folk whose unblemished personal history is easily exhumed ... he is clearly recorded in every census from his birth till his death. His professional career is, however, not so easily followed. Why? Because Albert was a chorister, and British theatre programmes of the C19th very often didn't list the names of the chorus. But I've winkled out some engagements.
Alfred was born in Croydon, the eighth child of William Gater and Jane née Jeffery. Father was an engine driver for the water works, and Albert grew up in Waterworks Yard, to where to family shifted when he was a child. At the age of fifteen, he took his first employement as a parcels clerk on the Brighton line, but after two years parcels palled, and by 1891 he is listing himself as 'violinist'. That doesn't appear to have lasted long, and by 1893 I see him up on the stage, playing King Hurricane in the Croydon pantomime Robinson Crusoe. Soon after, he (a) married local girl Sarah Maude Hepworth and (b) joined the D'Oyly Carte company as a touring chorister. He played The Chieftain, The Mikado, The Vicar of Bray, but was more in evidence as a fieldsman in the company's cricket team.
In 1898, he sang at Margate's Hall by the Sea, and then became a member of the Savoy Theatre troupe, where he appeared as Francesco in The Gondoliers, the Associate in Trial by Jury and depped as the Defendant and, for a full week, for Robert Evett as Ralph in HMS Pinafore.

My sightings of him are few over the next decade. I see him singing Marco with the Portsmouth amateurs in 1903, at the Ellen Terry Benefit Trial by Jury in 1906, and recording a film of 'excerpts from The Mikado in the same year. However, he becomes more visible from 1911 as a chorister in West End musical comedy -- Peggy, Tonight's the Night in London and New York, After the Girl, Yes, Uncle and, in 1919-20 Baby Bunting. Doubtless there were others, less traceable ...
Albert died in 1930, Sarah Maude in 1948, and their only son (with issue) Edgar Albert Sinclair Gater in 1961. 

If Albert appears to have led a very even and regular life, the same cannot be said Mr C[hristopher] J[oseph] O'BYRNE (b St John, Newfoundland c1849; d 36 Bedford Street, Liverpool 31 August 1917). He was born in Newfoundland, because his Irish father, Charles was seemingly serving in the armed forces there. They must have returned to Britain in the 1850s, as sister Agnes was born in Gosport in 1860. However, there are curiosities in the documentation of this family so I won't go into its ramifications. Merely to say that Christopher was living in Liverpool in 1871, with parents, sister Agnes (imbecile, d Dublin!) and little brother Charles, and working as a shopman.
He took music lessons from Edwin Reeve, and I first see him on a platform at Reeve's pupils concert at Hope Hall in 1876. I also see him singing Weber's Mass in G with the local Apollo Choral Society, at more Reeves shows, as leading man in a performance of local music The Happy Valley by T M Pattison, at the Hope Hall, and at William Lea's concerts in the next few years. He also got married (1879), his wife being Liverpool's Eleanor Dobson, the daughter of a local provision dealer. Their marriage would last nearly half a century, but only because the childless Eleanor was amazingly forgiving.
Story. In 1881, Christopher appeared on the bill at a concert given by local soprano 'Madame Bonvini', a young widow-lady from Cremona whose real name was Palmira Lanzani. Or the widow James Francis Crowley. Or maybe not. Anyway, she had one child born in Italy, presumably to Signor Bonvini, and three more by Liverpool Irish publican Mr Crowley, so she was no virginal soprano. 

I won't go into details here, but the parentage of Palmira's children is dubious ... unless, of course, Signor Bonvini WAS Mr Crowley, but the duet partnership ended in 1878 (exit Bonvini), Mr Crowley's unrecorded death is supposed to have occurred in 1880, and 'Mademoiselle Palmira Bonvini' has a daughter 28 December 1880 ... allegedly to this Crowley ...  You see? I guess Palmira, who had become a big singing fish in a Liver-pool, was at a loose end, for her next concubine was to be Mr O'Byrne.
On 12 September 1881, 'Madame Bonvini' gave a concert at Hope Hall. Mostly local talent, but also Jospeh Maas. Maas sang Balfe, Cowen and Cotsford Dick songs; Mr O'Bryne gave .M'appari', the Rigoletto quartert with Madame ... you could guess something was up 

And just over a year later (7 November 1882) a little Christopher Alexander O'Byrne/Lanzani/Bonvini/Crowley was born. Palmira's eldest son had already been 'homed', her little daughter would soon die, at five, but another child ...?  Well, Eleanor, three years a wife, took the child in and raised it as her own. Palmira went on to another ephemeral (but actual) husband, had another child, and lost the father the next year ... and a few years later emigrated to Canada when she married, of course, again ...  
Mr O'Byrne was gone even before the baby was born: off on tour with Cartesian star Duglas Gordon, playing Martel in Genevieve de Brabant. From there, he joined the company playing La Vie in the role of Blucher the bootmaker, and then moved to the D'Oyly Carte, singing Cyril in Princess Ida (1885). And that was the end of Mr O'Byrne. He now reinvented himself as 'Calder O'BEIRNE', lead tenor and operatic manager.

By 1888 he was already on the road, initially in partnership with baritone Edward Leahy, with a team of largely unknown vocalists playing Faust, Maritana, The Bohemian Girl, La Sonnambula, The Waterman and other popular operas from Ebbw Vale to Castleford to Malvern

Leahy withdrew after the first season, but O'Beirne carried on, through regular suings for salary in arrears, in tiny towns. I would love to know who 'Miss Clara Bernard' was, for she rose quickly to leading lady, played Lange when La Fille de Madame Angot was added to the repertoire and remained with the company for over six years. The company itself ran for something like ten years, O'Beirne sang countless Don Cesars and Thaddeuses and Ange Pitous for the whole decade, singers of the quality of Lizzie Riseam and Campbell Kneale spent time with the group, and it filled a gap in provincial entertainment of its time very convenably.
He next took over the management of the Palace Theatre at New Brighton, but before long he was back in the saddle as an actor-manager not, now, in opera but in Irish drama. This lasted several years, until Mr O'Beirne retired from the stage, and settled down as a singing teacher in Liverpool. I see him in 1911, aged 62, with Eleanor, 61 (in the previous census of 1901 she had been in the company of 18-year-old barman Christopher). Eleanor died in 1916, and O'Bierne remarried (Kezia Thomas). However, he died himself the next year.
The great survivor was ... Palmira. She survived her last mate, lived until 1938 (10 July), and didn't let go of her abandoned son. She sent him this photo, at the age of 83 ... the family historians have preserved it, but understandably they have not been able to build a coherent Tree. Chuckle, they are missing too many marriage certificates ...

E[dward] G[eorge] OSBORN[E] (b Liverpool 1849; d ?London 1902) was a very early Cartesian. In fact, although he played for Carte, he probably did not play in any of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan except, perhaps, Trial by Jury. 
Osborn (without an 'e') was born in Liverpool, one of the sons of Edward George, cooper (1816-1884) and his wife Harriet née Hughes, and in 1871 he is already describing himself as 'actor'. At some stage, he was taken on at the city's Prince of Wales Theatre, but I can only find a couple of reviews of his performance. When Miriam's Crime was produced he was labelled 'the weakest point in the piece'. He had played a lowlife character 'like a Cambridge undergraduate'. However, a couple of years later, at the same theatre, as Eytem in Meg's Diversion he was acclaimed 'an undoubted success .. unquestioned talent as a comedian'. When the theatre staged the Richard Temple version of Geneviève de Brabant (1877) he was Grabuge ('capital .. tiptop'). In between those performances he was a member of Selina Dolaro's company in London, cast as Panatellas in La Périchole. When The Secret was given as an accompaniment, he was topbilled. So, when Trial by Jury was substituted ... ?

After his time at Liverpool, he went on tour as Louchard in La Fille de Madame Angot (1878), rejoined Dolly Dolaro for more Périchole at the Folly Theatre, and then on tour playing Hyacinth Parnassus in The First Night (1879). He was hired to stage and play in Alcantara at the Connaught, but got into strife with the management, allegedly for 'neglect of duty', sacked, and promptly got the same job at the altogether healthier Globe Theatre. Which was playing a revival of Les Cloches de Corneville.
The next step was forseeable. He picked up a George Lash Gordon drama, London Pride, from the Pavilion Theatre and organised a company to tour it to susceptible town. Brother Robert Joseph Osborn (no 'e') was in the cast, Osborne played Sam Miller, the star role, and a Miss Bordien who had been playing a small part in Holt and Wilmot's Mankind tour was leading lady. Eleanor was the current 'Mrs Osborne'. The tour seemingly did fairly well, but at Christmas E G went off to Bristol to stage and star in Cinderella ...
In the censi of 1891 and 1901 he still describes himself as a comedian. Wife Mary Agnes née Turner is an actress. Their daughter is named Mercedes, which makes it look as if someone had been in Monte Cristo. But I can only see E G playing the odd music-hall date.
The family historians don't know anything, but in 1902, little Mercedes was taken out of school by her mother, and they are next seen headed for South Africa ...
There is an Edward George Osborn listed in the Surrey cemetery registers in December 1902 ...

Siddie SYMONS [SYMONS, Sarah] (b Launceston, Cornwall c1857; d Southampton December 1911) is a conundrum. There is a story in there somewhere ... but I have only been able to drag out a few items of fact. Her promising career, largely with the D'Oyly Carte companies and Redfern and Rousbey's Dorothy tour ... and her ghastly marriage and its wretched consequences. Yes, another one. And, yes, she married a fellow Cartesian soon after joining the company. It was, as so many such marriages were, a quick disaster. 

My first sighting of 'Siddie' (sic) is in the 1881 census. She is in Harrogate, with her widowed mother, Ann. And yes! Charity concert (January 1880): 'a comparative stranger to Harrogate, a hearty reception .. 'O fair dove, o fond dove', 'Tell me my heart' .. 'decidedly above the average as an amateur'. I wonder if she is the Miss Symons singing at Ladock in 1883 ..
Anyhow, at the approach of thirty, something made Miss Symons decide to try her luck as a professional singer. And she joined D'Oyly Carte. And promptly married (22 March 1884) Mr Wallace Brownlow. Life would never be the same again. 
'Siddie', after a trial as Princess Ida, played Yum Yum and Rose Maybud on the road between 1886-8. She went on to play principal girl in Glasgow's 1888 Mother Goose, then to play Dorothy in Cellier's opera (1889-90). Her marriage was already in tatters, as Brownlow carried on a career of serial infidelity while, at the same time, his professional career took him up to the Savoy Theatre and the English Opera House. 
She played Cinderella at Burnley in 1891, and then folded. She sued for divorce, he (from the safe distance of Australia) counter-sued, mud was flung ...
My next sighting of Siddie Brownlow is in the 1901 census. She is in the South Stoneham workhouse in Hampshire. She would stay there for a decade, until she was moved to the insane asylum 3 October 1911. Within weeks, she was dead.
In 1919, Brownlow, a drink-sodden pauper, committed suicide in the Melbourne Hotel fron which he had just been evicted ...


And lastly, the Wadmores. Two Wadmores. In fact, there were three Wadmore brothers, soms of a London umbrella manufacturer, and the one who didn't sing for Carte was the memorable one. John Lofting Wadmore (b 14 Horsefield Street, Islington 4 December 1848; d Clarence House, Clarence Rd, Wood Green 4 November 1878) was one of the great bass hopes of the English concert world. But his promise did not have a chance to blossom. Just a couple of months after singing at the 1878 Three Choirs Festival, and a few days after singing at the Covent Garden proms, he died 'of a cold' aged 29.

Brothers Walter Herbert WADMORE (b Stonefield St 27 June 1850; d South Africa) and Ernest Howard WADMORE (b 5a Albion Rd, Dalston, 1856 x 29 March 1857; d Old Church Hospital, Romford 8 December 1927), gave up umbrellas and turned to music, too. The year after John won the Crystal Palace Prize, Walter finished second in the tenor section. Ernest attended the Royal Academy.

Walter toured with Susanna Cole’s little Fille de Madame Angot company, played the Defendant in Trial by Jury and Alexis in The Sorcerer at the Opera-Comique and on tour, sang with the Crystal Palace opera and Henry Walsham’s opera company, at the Aquarium, Tunbridge Wells and Margate concerts, replaced J A Arnold as Corcoran in The Wreck of the Pinafore, and, as late as 1885, would be seen touring as the Marquis in Les Cloches de Corneville. In 1886, in partnership with Signor Unia ‘maestro del piano, HM Theatre’, he ‘a teacher of singing ... ten years stage experience’ set up what seems to have been an ephemeral ‘opera and concert agency’ in Bloomsbury. However, marital mayhem and a surfeit of wives seemingly caused him to disappear off to South Africa (‘professor of singing, Varney’s Corner, Capetown’ 1895) where goodness knows what became of him. I suspect the mention, in 1903, of him as ‘deceased’ on his daughter’s wedding certificate is rather a case of wishful thinking.


Ernest (‘has the style of a true musician and displayed a baritone of much purity’) was a chorister with Carte, and a singing teacher, before ending his working days at the Woolwich Arsenal. He, too, was hymenally unfortunate and divorced his wayward wife, Rosalind Bertha (née Haynes, b 1 December 1869), in 1918. 



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