Saturday, August 28, 2021

Cowley, or The Purser of Malta

A charming family photo collection showed up today on e-bay ...

Just a very few are named, and the vendor hasn't put them on line in such a fashion as to show which photos came to her/him in the same bundle ...  so I'm going to make educated guesses ...

Just to make things difficult, although the family latterly lived in England, father came from Ireland, many of the children were born in Malta ..

Anyway the family was named COWLEY.  Father, William Haselden Cowley, born Dublin 18 February 1823, was apprenticed in his teens to the merchant navy. I see him from 1856 as purser on the Benares and the Oneida on the Australian run, and in the early 1860s on the Northam

He married the very young Sarah Anne Richardson from Malta, and their first surviving children were born there: Henry Telfer Cowley (28 February 1849) and George Benjamin (21 December 1851). Josephine Melita was born in Chelsea, William Haselden at Albion Rd, Stoke Newington, Charles Walter in Calcutta, Florence Edith and the last, Selina Mary back in Malta. 

So. Let us look at this package of photos.

Henry is easy. He is labelled.

Fourteenth birthday photo. Yes, there they are. Grandmother Mary Priscilla née Haselden, mother Sarah Ann, with Henry, George, Melita and William jr in Albion Rd, Stoke Newington. Photographer: C Taylor...  

I was moving on, when I noticed another photo from Taylors .. and then more ... and here was another labelled one! Sent by Sarah Ann to her mother in-law

Charles Walter born 11 September 1865 at Kidderpore, West Bengal. Photo sent from Malta. I think he may not have lived very long. I never hear of him again.

And, look, here in the pile is a cdv made up of a copy of Henry's marriage announcement in The Times ..

Notice that his father is described as 'of Calcutta'. Yet he died in Malta. 

Well, the vendor's collection was quite small, so I thought maybe I should continue with the photos therein.  Especially those from Mr J C Turner of 17 Upper Street, Islington

How can we know? Is that Sarah Ann in her widow's weeds?  Is the last photo of Florence and Selina (three years between them)? Is one of the others Melita?  

George Benjamin died as a teenager, but is one of the other men Willian Haselden jr?

Oh the vendor has mislabelled the young lad at the table. He's from J & C Taylor not Turner. But that cap on the tables looks very like the one in the photo of young Charles ...

And is this family? Or just a friend?

Well, physiognomists .. what do you reckon?

Perhaps norfolkbluebell could tell us  ...

Ah! to be in Norfolk when the bluebells are out ...

And whence came these photos?  

Sarah Ann died at 13 Little Ealing Lane 17 April 1917.

Henry died at 10 Algiers Road, Lewisham 16 October 1927, after a long working life as a bank clerk. His wife Annie (née Keeling) at Seafield, King's Rd, Great Yarmouth 12 April 1934.  They left one daughter, Beatrice Lilian who died unmarried (Basingstoke 31 July 1966).

William jr died 18 December 1935 at Romford. What he did is his 3/4 century I know not. 

Josephine died 12 January 1936 and Selina -- still living at Little Ealing Lane -- 5 June 1935, both unwed...

And that leaves Florence, who apparently wed a Maltese by the name of de Piro ... are there any surviving Pirouettes ...  or has the family quite died out?

Friday, August 27, 2021

Arthur Miles: Victorian Artist


Right. Masked stroll, then time to get down to The Book again. But ...

This is Arthur Miles (b Lambeth 10 January 1827; d Stroud Green 22 June 1904). Artist. I'm afraid I'd never heard of him. 

So I had a wee peep with my peppermint tea ...

Son of Thomas Miles, composer and teacher of music, and his wife Matilda Jane née Clint.  Afraid I haven't heard of Thomas, either. Plenty of brother and sisters, including one called Leonidas Clint Miles (1839-1898).  Landscape painter. Married to Helena Clint RAM. 

Can't find many mentions of them. Father went bankrupt in 1853, shortly before his death 

Here's a wee mention of Arthur

Not in awfully good company! I see 'L Clint Miles' in several gallery advertisements ..  and exhibiting at the BSA's 1860s exhibition ('Ruins by Moonlight' 15gns, 'Lane in Bushey Herts' 6gns, 'Evening' 7gns, 'Heath scene - sunset' 10gns) -- and, goodness, at the Royal Academy in 1883 ('View of London from the North West') and on two other occasions.

I also see him penning a couple of George Rowney & Co's 'Hints on Sketching' handbooks in the 1860s

The web and those 'art sales' sites have Arthur floruitting from 1851 .. someone has him dying in 1872 (that was his mother), another muddles him up with another Alfred who belongs to the 20th century. Well, although at various periods of his life he has added 'woodcarver' and 'sculptor' to his description, it seems to have been principally as a portrait painter that he worked throughout his life. He too is in the BSA 1860s exhibition ('Cheering News' 30gns, 'Matilda' 40gns, The NPG has a chalk portrait of Robson (1861) that seems to be his ...  And he is credited with 13 canvases shown at the RA. Both brothers exhibited largely at the BSA's Suffolk Street Gallery, which may or may not have something to do with their consanguinuity to the BSA's head honcho, Alfred Clint.

And maybe these?

And for Leonidas ...

Both brothers remained artists the whole of their lives, and brought up large families, so they must have sold a few 40 guinea paintings (although Arthur left a meagre 193L 18s at his death) ... I shall keep my eye out for more ...

When it opens again. Time for my nap!

Thursday, August 26, 2021

I'm still in Devonshire! Another bit of (someone's) family teckery!


Lockdown. Paused in the research/writing of the book after the book after next, waiting for My Editor to read and digest stuff. So ... why not stay where the cream and cider comes from. Another day in Devonshire.

I don't usually investigate kiddie photos, unless they're part of a family lot.  But this forlorn or very serious chap grabbed me

What  would you say?  About ten years old. In that case, 'forlorn'. If, later, even more forlorn. Because ...

Well, here beginneth the story that I have exhumed ...

Once upon a time, a carpenter and shipbuilder named George Cox was born (x 8 November 1809) and lived in Bridport, Dorset.  He was the son of John Cox (shipbuilder) and his wife Susannah, and I see he had a brother Elias (b Bridport 27 July 1821; d West Bay, Bridport, 1 March 1896) who became big in the same business ('employing 53 men...), and it appears mulitiple other siblings.  I see Elias sailling his ship Ellen in the Bridport regatta of 1851 and in 1863 lauching his brigantine Portia. In 1867 he was elected Mayor of Bridport.

By 1851, by 1841 indeed, however George had left Bridport. He had married a lady named Ann from North Petherton, and their first child was born 'imbecile'. He can be seen in Marsh, Chircombe, Northam, Devon aged 32, a ship builder, with Ann, poor Sarah, John (7), Samuel (5) and Enoch (3). I don't know what happened to Samuel and Enoch, but it is John in whom we're interested. John followed in father's and grandfather's traces and became a shipbuilder. He and his father can be seen in Cleave Houses, Northam, in the 1861 census, building ships, making sails, making rope, saw-milling. Evidently quite a business.  I see they went bankrupt (tactically?) in 1867-8, but when George died 8 February 1877 he nevertheless left a tidy 2000 pounds in the hands of, not his son, but his wealthy brother in Bridport!

John duly became a husband, marryinging ironmonger's daughter Mary Jane Williams from Barnstaple (6 August 1856), by whom he had four sons and two daughters before her death, aged 41, 10 March 1870.  I've chased them all up. Edith Annie (b 9 April 1857; d Ilfracome 1 July 1926, Mrs Thomas Copp); George Henry (b 13 May 1858; d 18 August 1898); Arthur John (b 30 August 1860); Ernest Mackenzie (b 21 November 1861; d Muswell Hill 17 April 1930); Bertha (b 20 August 1863; d 1893) and Reginald (b 30 September 1866; d Teignmouth, 4 April 1941).

So, there is our young lad. After their mother's death, the boys were sent to boarding school at Great Torrington ...  and then, apparently, John died. But no one seems to have noticed. There he is, in 1878, doing his thing, and in January 1879 he is 'deceased'. Oh dear. John Cox died 19 January 1879, private patient in the County Asylum ...  that sounds like a stroke .. aged 45?.

The ironmongering Williams family seem to have taken on the responsibility of at least some of the children. Arthur joined the firm, until he went blind. Emily married a shipwright, Bertha became a draper's assistant before death at 29, George Henry 'marine draghtsman' died in Exeter Asylum aged 40. I suppose it was Reginald who added his name to Bertha's tombstone.

Of the sons, both Ernest and Reginald had comparatively normal lives. They went to sea. And to America. The got naturalised, even. They got married. But they came home from the sea and foreign parts.

Ernest seems to have married into the family. Twice. Firstly to Amy Elizabeth Williams (1868-1892) who seems to have  he died he won a little obit, so I'll simply print it here.

Amyas studied engineering, then became a photographer, married but seemingly bred not. So it seems that the Copp children of Ilfracombe are the only descendants of the once blooming Cox family of boatbuilders ...


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Delving in Devon: or where a Victorian Vocalist can lead you.


Those of you who know, or follow, me, know about my involvement with Victorian Vocalists. Yes, my big red book has been out for four years now, and it has just been issued as a bargain-basement paperback, but that doesn't mean I've closed down the factory completely.  And there's a decade's worth of knowledge and names secreted somewhere in the undamaged portion of my brain. Let's just say that, at the moment, I'm pursuing slightly different subjects. But ... curious things happen to turn a man from his wayfaring. 

One of my relaxing hobbies, between chunks of research on and writing of the new book(s), one which takes me out of my theatre and music worlds for a few hours, is tracking down the stories behind old photographs. So this morning, deciding on a 'day off', I picked out a likely-looking lady and, guess what. She and her daughter led me straight back into the Victorian Vocalist world ... and a part of that world I'd always rather regarded with scorn ...  so I thought I ought to further investigate this rather fine-looking woman from ... where? ... it was written on the photo: 'Mrs Beachy. South Molton'.

I don't think she was still of South Molton (but who knows?) by the time this photo was taken, but, yes, that's where she was born. 

Miss Mary Nott. Mrs John Beachey (with an 'e'). Born Barnstaple Street, 1832, christened 30 May 1832. Daughter of Thomas Nott and Susan née Harding. This seemed as if it was going to be easy. Well, it wasn'y.  I got deeply enmired in some fascinating Devonshire history on the way, and after a six hour wander, I've finally got only most of what I was after. 

So who and what was the Nott Family? Don't ask. They go back for eons in the Southmolton area and have all sorts of genealogical twists and turns (and the usual repetitons of the same forenames). And they also have sufficient of a connection with the Hardings for the Notts and the Hardingses to throw up hyphenated relatives, or ones using each other's name as a middle name. Frederick Richard Harding-Nott of Tordown House, Swimbridge ... etc. So, in the end I didn't go back into the eighteenth century. Because I found ... 

The Hardings 'of Combe Martin' or Combmartin were a consequent family. Lawyers' landowners etc. Richard Harding of Buzzacott (d 1844) and his wife Agness née Nott 'of Swimbridge'. His brother John Nott Harding. His sons James Nott Harding and Richard Harding jr. There they are, in 1820, brokering a house lease for Miss Nott of Swymbridge. So, in 1831 when 'Miss Susan Harding of Combmartin' weds 'Mr Thomas Nott of Southmolton', you wonder why the participants didn't have 'son of' and 'daughter of' attached in the press notice. Suspicious. There is 'my sister Susannah' in Richard's will, but no 'daughter Susannah'. A notty problem. Because there are Notts of Swinbridge proliferating from the 16th century at least ... I wonder if Susan was from one of the consequent Harding families of Combmartin. Or nott. Dead end. 

No Hardings or Notts as witnesses. A lawyer and a tenant.

Thomas was a 'gentleman'. 'Of East Street'. I can't find his marriage or birth records, but I have found both his grave and his will. You see, when our Mary married Mr Beachey, she told us that her father was 'deceased'. And when I dove further, I found that he only fathered two children: Mary in 1832, and John on 1 July ('a son and heir') 1833. I guessed he might have died in 1833 or 4. And he did. Widow Susan erected a stone in the George Nympton church, in South Molton, 'to perpetuate his memory'. I see a 17th-century church warden there was Amos Nott ..

And here is his will. Seven pages of it, laboriously transcribed by a clericus Cantabriensis. It was written 21 March 1833, before his son's birth, so wife Susan and daughter Mary are the beneficiaries. Yes, our Mary. Aged one. The script is a demon to read, but ..

Well, I had a go at reading it. No one else will!! But why did he make a vast will at 32 years of age, anyway?  OK. 100 pounds and all the furniture, plate, linen, china, books, wines and spirits in the house to Susan. Ah! Names! William Paramore printer and stationer ('of Broad Street', he is 'gent' and landowner and sometime mayor by the time he dies 22 May 1849) and James Cork, builder to be trustees over his properties ... the house in Broad Street occupied by William Chorley ('spirit merchant' the marriage witness who died in 1837!) until baby Mary is twenty-five (!) ... 300 pounds for Mary at age 25 .. leasehold estates and tenements .. government stocks .. freehold estates, lands and tenements ...  

But, again, no 'my brother', 'my sister' ... just wife and daughter and unborn son. Odd. Well, I forged on. Susan, seemingly reasonably provided for ('independent'), turns up in the 1841 census in Barnstaple with her children, but by 1851 she is no more. Susan Mott died in 1847 aged 35. And the children? Well, in 1851, they can be seen back in Southmolton. In East Street. John is apprentice to a surgeon, by name Richard Ley, and Mary 'proprietors of houses and lands' is 'visiting'. Mrs Ley, aged 30, is née Elizabeth Nott. Daughter of Richard Nott ... oyyy!

I leave the yangle of Notts in Southmolton, for Mary would soon be on the move. Into marriage (1 September 1853). And, of course, into another consequent family. John Beachey (b Highweek 1827) was a lawyer, of D'Arcy and Beachley, eldest son of a landed proprietor 'of Beech Park' and a member of a well-known local family. It would get to be even better known when his twice-jilted sister Elizabeth won a huge 750L in a breach of promise case. 

A daughter Isabel Mary was born to John and Mary the following year (Newton Bushel, 4 August 1854), but once more disaster struck the family, After father and mother Nott, gone in their thirties, on 23 January 1861, John Beachey died, at the age of 33. He left some 5000L.

Some two months later, the 1861 census finds the 28 year-old widow Beachey in Limehouse, with brother John (now 'chemist') and his wife Louisa (Way née Follett). Little Isabel is being cared for by the servants in Highweek Village. Alas, by the next census Louisa too would be also a widow ...  And Mary? Well, in 1881 she and Isabel are living in London's 8 Tavistock Square. And they have a 'visitor'. A 32 year-old male from Hemel Hempstead named Charles James Bishenden who avows that he is a 'singer and author'. Isabel married him the following year (17 June 1882).

Charles Bishenden! I thought I'd got him out of my hair forever.  Of all the wretched would-be-vocalists that I encountered in my years among the Victorian Vocalists, Bishenden was one of the most strivingly and insistently ridiculous. He advertised himself as 'the author of The Voice and How to Use It'  (published 1869). He got himself into the nonsensensical newspaper squabble over 'pitch' and got laughed at. He patronised Doughty's voice lozenge. He launched 'the Bishenden Hat', 'The Bishenden Boot','The Bishenden Umbrella' as worn by ..' He advertised himself as 'the celebrated basso' (always with that mockable epithet) to give concerts at Norwood and Camden Park. He announced that he would stage English Opera at St George's Hall. He didn't. And, each time he opened his mouth, he got the mickey taken out of him by an unforgiving press. Escept in his native Hemel Hempstead. In 1874, I see him supporting 'Miss Pelham' of Ixion fame in an amateur concert in Kennington. And in 1891, in three rooms in Charlotte Street, he is still doggedly avowing that he is a vocalist and teacher of singing. Those three rooms also contain wife, mother-in-law and another Southmolton girl ..  

It seems that Mary died shortly after this census. There is no will. All those houses and land, all her husband's money ... where had it gone?  I see the Beachey Estates were still the subject of lawsuits into the 20th century ...

The Bishendens moved to Portsmouth after Mary's death, where they can be seen sharing a home in 1901 with John's widow, Louisa. Charles is still listed as a singer and author .. yes, there he is promoting a concert at the Teignmouth Pier Pavilion. The 'celebrated basso' is now billed as 'of the Royal Albert Hall and the principal London and Provincial Concerts'. Later as 'soloist of the Albert Hall'. Hmmm. And he is still giving his 'Lecture on the Voice' at the Working Men's Club. And publishing 'How to Sing' (H White & Son, 1/-), 'Hygenic Living', 'Profitable Health', 'Forty years recollection of the Handel Festival Choir' (he was in the chorus)  ... I notice him suing the Exmouth Pier Pavilion for 'expenses': I suspect he was not a paid performer. But he was a doggedly persistent one. For some forty years. And Isabel sang too ('Angels ever bright and fair') and accompanied her husband.

They returned at some stage to London, where Charles died in 1918 (30 November), in High Hoborn, at the age of 70, writing 'celebrated' letters to the press up till weeks before his demise. He claimed to have penned over a thousand of them. Isabel lived until 1941 (5 January), and died at 18 Granville Rd, Bournemouth. She was still 'of private means', but neither of them seems to have left a will ...

Louisa did. When she died in Peckham 25 June 1909 she left her 343L to be administered by her sister-in-law. Her only child, Mary Louisa, had died aged 27 ...  so there is the end of the line of Thomas and Susan Nott.

The photographers were in action from 1863 at 20 Market Place, so presuming this is Mary, she was already as widow ...

I wonder to whom, then, this photo was given. And why it was taken in Leicester. And why it is inscribed 'Beachy' without the 'e' ...  and why someone is bidding on it ...

Postscript: Bessie the twice-jilted ultimately married the widowed Reverend John Lowder Kay (30 July 1867) and mothered a son, Charles Beachey Kay. Charles apparently captained the English Olympic Cricket Team (1900) to a gold medal, became a theatre performer, called himself 'Beachcroft' or 'Kay', fathered a whole lot of children, played in Austrian films (opposite Leatrice Joy!) and ended up in Australia... all of which earned him a 2015 biography One of Life's Great Charmers (Michael Fairley) ...

So the Beachey side of the family doubtless still exists in some shape or form. 

After the Rev Kay's death, Bessie made up for lost time by marrying another Rev gentleman, Mr Henry Heaton, but by 1901 she is esconced at West Cliff, Dawlish, Devon, with a couple of Charles's children, and a Beachey niece  .. in 1911, she has moved to Heavitree where she died in 1914.

PPS: Ive looked into the Nott family of Swymbridge, minutely detailed in Burke's Landed Gentry. They are the only Notts in the area who seem to have been 'Esquires'. But I'll be blowed if I can see where our Thomas fits in.

And now I had better get out of 'Devon, glorious Devon' and back to the theatre ...

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The SZ box: two great stars of the Operette


A couple of delighful photos turned up on e-bay today.  Its seems someone is clearing out the letter SZ ....

There are many photos of Szíka around, but I've never seen one quite so youthful.  Please note, directors of the eternal Fledermaus, that he was aged just thirty when he created the role of Eisenstein in Strauss's Operette. The 20th century passion for Granny casting nowadays, often, has him double that age.

SZIKA, Jani [SZÍKA, János] (b Pest, 7 February 1844; d Vienna, 20 October 1916). The original Eisenstein of Die Fledermaus and the star of a long run of Viennese musicals.

 After being originally destined for a medical education, Jani Szika began his stage career, at the age of 18, at the Deutsches Theater in his native Pest. In 1864 Friedrich Strampfer hired him for the Theater an der Wien as an actor, but soon after he found himself cast in such musical pieces as Bazin's Die Reise nach China (Maurice Fréval), in the spectacular Prinzessin Hirschkuh(La Biche au Bois, Mesrour), and as Prince Saphir in Offenbach's Blaubart. During the run of Die Grossherzogin von Gerolstein, Szika stepped in to substitute for Albin Swoboda in the lead tenor rôle of Fritz, and coped so admirably with the part that his career from then on took a quite different turning, and he went on to make his name as a leading man in opéra-bouffe and Operette. 

 In 1868 Szika appeared as Charles Martel in Genovefa von Brabant, in 1871 as Flink in Drei Paar Schuhe, Marzas in Lecocq's Le Rajah de Mysore, Falsacappa in Offenbach's Die Banditen and created the lead light-comedy rôle of Ali Baba in Johann Strauss's maiden work, Indigo und die vierzig Räuber. In 1872 he was Spark in Offenbach's Fantasio and Emil Falkner in Die Theaterprinzessin (La Diva), in 1873 he created the part of Benvenuti Raphaeli in Strauss's Carneval in Rom and played Abälard in Litolff's Abälard und Heloise and Marcassou in Offenbach's Die Wilderer (Les Braconniers). In 1874 he appeared as Gstettner in Jonas's Die Japanesin and took time out briefly to attempt to run the ill-fated Komische Oper (later the Ringtheater, and the site of Vienna's worst ever theatre fire) before returning to the Theater an der Wien to create the most famous rôle of his career as Gabriel von Eisenstein to the Rosalinde of Marie Geistinger in Die Fledermaus.

 In the following years he played Giletti in Offenbach's Madame `Herzog' (1875) and Albert von Graff in Varney's Die Perle der Wascherinnen (1875, La Blanchisseuse de Berg-op-Zoom), created Graf Stefan Fodor in Strauss's Cagliostro in Wien (1875), appeared as Frontignac in Die Creolin (1876, La Créole), Prinz Qui-Passe-Par-La in Die Reise in den Mond (1876, Le Voyage dans la lune), created the part of Lambert de Saint-Querlonde in Der Seekadett (1876), was the Fridolin of König Carotte (1876), Cornelius in Die Porträt-Dame (1877) and the first Marquis d'Aubigny in Nanon (1877), before ending his ten-year tenure with the Theater an der Wien.

 In 1878 he returned as a guest artist to create the rôle of Sepp in Das verwunschene Schloss and in 1879 he appeared as Loisl in Das Versprechen hinter'n Herd with Geistinger, but he was engaged in Berlin in 1880 and he made his career during the 1880s largely in Germany. There he created the rôle of Caramello in Strauss's Eine Nacht in Venedig in 1883, and appeared as Sauritz Sonsen in Der Doppelgänger (1887), Graf Neckar in Adolf Neuendorff’s Waldmeisters Brautfahrt (1887) and Giuseppe in Incognito (1887) at the Walhalla-Theater, but he spent an increasing amount of time acting in non-musical plays. In 1891 he went to Frankfurt where he completed his re-transformation back to being the straight actor as which he had begun, and he spent his later years playing in classic drama and comedy, from Shakespeare to Schiller.

Likewise, Sári Fedak was vastly photographed, but not so often in this role

On my ill-starred Hungarian visit, 30 plus years ago, when the political situation forced me to flee on the last train out to Vienna, I bore on my back 20 kilos and more of old Hungarian sheet music. Amongst it, were several beautfully decorated large selections from A szultán. When I got home, I played them, and was delighted. That whole 20 kilos is now safeguarded in the Harvard Theatre Collection ... and, I suppose, in the Hungarian archives. Perhaps the Operettszínház would like to do it ...

A SZULTÁN Operett in 3 acts (prologue and 2 acts) by György Verö based on Les Trois Sultanes by Charles Favart. Népszinház, Budapest, 19 October 1892.

 Thirty-five-year-old Verö, a conductor at the Népszinház and a sometime playwright, had been leading a busy career in the musical theatre, principally as a translator of Viennese Operetten for the Hungarian stage, when he was given the opportunity, in the wake of the success of such local composers as József Konti, to write the score for an operett for his theatre.

 His first work, for which he wrote not only the music but also the book and the lyrics, was A szultán, a piece based on Charles Favart's verse comedy Les Trois Sultanesou Soliman II, originally played in Paris with a musical score by Gilbert (Italiens, 9 April 1761). Since then, Les Trois Sultanes had been through the musical mill, being set to original scores by several Italian operatic composers (Le tre sultaneSolianno II), by Vienna's Francis Xaver Süssmayer (Soliman II, Kärtnertor Theater 5 October 1799), by Swedish and Danish composers, and being played in Paris, London (Bickerstaff's The Sultan, or a Peep in the Seraglio, 1775 et al) and in New York in variegated forms of its various operatic forms. Amongst a further bevy of adaptations and musicalizations it was also produced as a Singspiel under the title Roxelane (Die drei Sultaninnen) in a version by J Perinet at Vienna's Freyhaus-Theater (18 July 1799), given in a new version by Lockroy at Paris's Théâtre des Variétés in 1853, with Delphine Ugalde starred as Roxelane, and featured at the Comédie français (18 August 1892), with all its ‘antique’ musical sections intact, with Albert Lambert..

 Ver*o*'s version of the famous tale of a travelling mademoiselle who gets caught up in a sultan's harem and ends up subduing and marrying the mighty man was illustrated by a delightful if vocally demanding score which mixed the rhythms and harmonies of the Viennese Operette with some more particularly Hungarian ones and also with a definite but unclichéd flavour of the East. If the Sultan's waltz rondo `Szeretlek Roxelánom' proved the hit of the show, there were plenty of other fine and funny musical moments -- a delicious laughing song, with nothing but `ha-ha-ha' lyrics, which twittered up to rows of top B-natural acciacaturas, a lively galop trio, a splendidly unsoppy romance for the number-two lady, a drinking song in waltz time, littered with trills and cadenzas, the Sultan's tricky Oriental Serenade and some flavourful ensembles, all of which made repeated use of the area above the stave in their vocal writing.

 The Népszinház's established musical star Aranka Hegyi created the trousers rôle of Selim, the Sultan, whilst the newest addition to Budapest's stellar register, plumply pretty Klára Küry who had just made a hit as the heroine of Varney's La Fille de Fanchon la vielleuse, was cast as little French Roxelane, with Népszinház comedians Vidor Kassai, József Németh, József Ferenczy and Adolf Tollagi and the composer's wife, Célia Margó (Delia), in support. Helped just a little by the newfound popularity of Küry, A szultán was a major success. It was played no fewer than 84 times, almost equalling the record of Konti's A suhanc, the Népszinház's most successful local piece to date. If this was not the equal in terms of run to such all-time Budapest favourites as Les Cloches de CornevilleDer VogelhändlerMam'zelle NitoucheDer ZigeunerbaronBoccaccio or Rip, it nevertheless allowed A szultán to place itself firmly on the second rung alongside The MikadoLe Petit Duc and Der Bettelstudent in the Népszinház's annals and, like them, it remained for many years a favourite in Hungary, being given a major revival at the Király Színház in 1911.

 Later, when Verö ventured abroad, Der Sultan (ad Verö, Carl Lindau) was staged in Vienna -- an achievement shared by few other Hungarian operetts of the period -- with Sári Fedák starred in the title-rôle and Grete Freund as Roxelane (46 performances).

Austria: Johann Strauss-Theater Der Sultan 27 March 1909


Leeds 1888: all for a little bit of blue paper


Well, here I am 'locked down' in Yamba. Those in charge have really made a mess of the management of this 'crisis' in Australia.  However, I foresaw this and, last market-day, I martyrised my aged arms and legs carrying double rations up the hill!  I made a huge pot of warming Zuppe, to which I shall add daily ... so all is organised ..

Early morn. I have a mug of lovely, hot full-cream milk ... and I'm into my time capsule, flying back to ....

This programme caught my eye, because it contained much Gilbert and Sullivan material ...

So, when did it date from? No dates on the item, and I'd never heard of one of the Leedsian folk in the lists. Clearly, they were amateurs. Or nearly.  Seemingly this group was trying to be a clone of Josef Cantor's very successful semi-pro Operatic Concert group ..  Did they succeed? I soon found out. No. They didn't. Mr Whalley-Stewart's half-cocked organisation lived for just over a year, during which time they gave three and a bit concerts at the Leeds Coliseum and two twice-dailies at Scarborough over Easter. Finish.

This was seemingly the first of those. 28 January 1888.

Hmmm. Some slight variations from the programme there. Mrs Trenam seems to have dropped out. And a few typos ...

Well, they got a notice in the local press ...

So, who were these folk? Start at the top of the bill.

'Madame Dixon' is impossible. The splendid Mrs Dixon of the past decades was living out her last years in Wales. Who was this one? And why 'Madame'. Oh, Lord, they have Madame Shaw and Madame Atkinson as well. Oh dear, I thought Leeds was above such provincialisms.  I see 'Madam Dixon of the Albert Hall concerts' (ah! the Albert Hall, Sheffield!) singing the May Queen with the Witton-on-the-Wear Choral Society. Elsewhere it's Madame Dixon of the Leeds and Oldham concerts'. Between 1887 and 1892.

Annie [Eliza] Hoyle (b Armley x 14 July 1864). 'Of Wortley'. Well, of Armley, really. One of the seven children of Alfred Hoyle of Beulah House: 'woollen manufacturer employing 75 men' and his wife Mary née Armitage . Yes, there she is, in 1883, singing at a Wortley concert, in aid of the Congegational School Chapel Roof. And with the Leeds Orchestral Society, singing Bennett's May Queen. And -- Lilliput love us -- on the same programme Mr J Sidney Jones jr played two Chopin Waltzes and a Mazurka! Thirteen years before The Geisha! Gaul's The Holy City in Halifax, the Leeds Masonic Institution, and with Jones sr and his Leeds Rifles band playing selections from Princess Ida. Annie, as usual, sang 'Auntie'. Mackenzie's Jason at Armley, Stainer's The Daughter of Jairus, Cummings's The Fairy Ring, at Shepley, Harrogate, at the Coliseum concerts with W H Dawson of York Minster, in a concert party for that frightful busybody F W Crossley (he was into saving Liverpool lassies from being loose), in the Messiah at Bramley and Pudsey, Acis and Galatea in Leeds, The May Queen at Stockton, Dr Spark's Immanuel première ...  Annie was experienced, capable, delightful and throroughly deserved her billing in this company.  She didn't appear with the company again, though, for 21 May 1889 she married Mr Lewis Alexander Grant of Formby, timber salesman in Prittlewell, Essex. She had a son Henry Armitage Grant, a daughter Dorothy Lillian (Mrs Raven) who died, as did her father ... guess where: Napier, New Zealand ...  I suppose he was the Lewis Alexander Grant, boarding-house keeper and sawmiller of Taumaranui and serial bankrupt ...

The top-billed gentleman, Mr William Fisher Heath (b Bishop Monkton, Yorks 19 October 1861; d Leeds 6 December 1939) was not a virtual professional like Annie. He had a day job.  The eldest son of a landed farmer, he became a school-teacher, which employ he pursued throughout his working life, rising to become a long serving headmaster, and local president of the NUT in the 1920s. However, professional, semi-pro or whatever, he ran a career as a tenor vocalist, in parallel to his day job, for more than twenty years. I see him as a pupil of the ubiquitous Dr Spark in 1883, singing 'In native worth' under his teacher's aegis, and from there he quite simply carried on, appearing regularly, singing everything from oratorio to 'Once Again'  or 'The Message' and a selection from Dorothy.  For twenty years and more. Always to agreeable notices.

The originally announced mezzo for our concert, as we can see from the proof programme, was Mrs Eleanor Trenam (née Eleanor Rhodes, b Leeds 1858, d 40 Craven Tce, Leeds 11 August 1914). Mrs Trenam had been a Yorkshire concert regular for some years, she had also been a wife for a few years, but her telegraph-man husband had died young. She had worked as a schoolteacher, but latterly she taught singing.  However, she was on the local performing scene at least 1884-1896. Later, she remarried and became Mrs William Broomhead, wife of a glass stainer ...

However, as we see from the notices, she didn't do it. She was replaced by Miss Marie Rhodes. Miss Rhodes was actually Mary Ann Rhodes (b Holbeck; d Leeds 18 March 1954), daughter of Titus Hainsworth Rhodes, mechanic, and his wife Eleanor ... and yes, I thought, too, that she must be related to Mrs Trenam; but if so, it was distantly. It was a kind of silly nom de musique to choose, because 'Marie Rhodes' was a well-known actress, but Mary Ann would way outlast her namesake. And, anyway, from 1895, she was Mrs W Fisher Heath, under which name she performed locally for another decade, while producing seven children.  

Proceeding down the bill, we find Mr Wilfrid/Wilford/Wel[l]ford Pratt. Baritone. (b Hollin Bank x 17 Aptil 1853; d Brierfield 1932). He's the fellow whom the press criticised for his lifeless Escamillo. But he sang around the Lancashire and Yorkshire towns and villages for forty years. He was born in the Little Marsden/Brierley area, the son of a shoemaker turned factory stoker/fireman Robert Pratt and his wife Elizabeth née Landless who worked as a cotton powerloom operative, and I see him as early as 1868 singing 'Mother, I've come home to die' in a local concert. His younger sister, Maggie (b New Rd Little Marsden 3 January 1860) was a 'pleasing soprano' and the two of them can be seen in the late 1870s singing at hometown occasions. Wilfrid began as a warehouseman, but became a cotton warp dresser (I see him 'of Messrs Pickles Bros' in 1903), and sang on the side. He married (1 October 1879) Margaret Clegg (d 9 Oxford St, Brierfield November 1930), daughter of local engineer, and they had three children, of whom a son and a daughter survived. 
He was fairly active in the 1880s, but after his stint with the Concert Party his appearance became occasional. I see him singing -- alongside his son, Thomas (24 June 1887-1951) cotton warp dresser -- at a Concert in the Conservative Club Billiard Rooms at Brierfield.

I haven't done so well with the minor players ... but what about the two gentlemen displayed on page one. Mr Whalley Stewart and Mr Harry Dawson. They seem to be in charge of the 'team'.

'Whalley' wasn't 'Whalley' at all. He was the son of Scotsman Alexander Stewart, brassfounder, and he was born at Albion Court, Leeds 4 June 1863 as plain William Stewart. And by profession, he was a lithographic draghtsman. However, he was also a keen amateur musician, and it seems to have been on his initiative that the group was formed. And, I would suspect, that this fancy concert programme was printed. Anyhow Whalley, who had removed with his parents to Barkston Ash, didn't stay long in the concert world. After this experiment, he tried his hand at local politics, 'oil and cake merchant', and in 1896 I see him referred to as 'bandmaster of the Industrial School Band'.
In 1892 he married Mary Jane Fawcett, began a family, and went back to lithography. Until in about 1906, they all packed up emigrated to ... New Zealand. They settled in Stanley Bay, Auckland, where Whalley became bandmaster of the Devonport Brass Band, founded the Auckland Mounted Rifles Band, zipped off with them to Egypt (where they gave concerts) for the duration of the war, and returned home to Waitematata, and NZ radio concertising. He died in Devonport 19 April 1925.

Whalley goes to war

Harry (b Leeds 28 June 1864; d Harrogate 14 September 1926) started life as a lithographer, too. His father, John Dawson, was a draper and master milliner at 15 Briggate, and Harry had musical training with Dr Spark. In his mid-twenties he had a brief crack at comic singing, before settling down to lithography, marriage (Mary Isabel Harrison), five children and an ultimate career as a house furnishings merchant in Harrogate and Knaresborough.


So, that leaves us Annie Nicholson, Miss [M] Wolfe, Miss [Bertha] Buckle, Miss [Lottie?] Atkinson, Mr [?H] Stancliffe, Mr [A] Stocks, Mr Harper, Mr Norman Stead, Miss Dillicome (!) and Mr Balfe (!!).

Norman Stead (b Holbeck 28 November 1864) was a member of a musical family, the children of monumental sculptor and stone merchant Ezra Stead of Oulton cum Woodlesford and his wife Ruth née Sheard. The first three of their children -- Mary Elizabeth, Norman and Ernest Paul -- all performed as vocalists. Ernest was the most successful. He spent time in the choir at Peterborough Cathedral, and later sang in the Leeds concerts and taught music. Norman continued to work for his father, and at my last sighting, widowered in 1911, he was a traveller in the oil business.

Lottie Atkinson 'of the Coliseum and West Rising concerts' '28 Cobden Place, Leeds' was Charlotte Emma Atkinson (b 1864), daughter of John W Atkinson and his wife Matilda. She was another Spark pupil. So this is probably she, out without her Christian name. Which was soon (29 September 1890) to become Mrs William Walter Alderson.

Bertha [Swinton] Buckle (b Hutton Hill/Leyburn 1861; d 1908) was an ephemeral singer. She was a daughter of a Captain in the North Yorkshire militia. The Captain 'of Sowerby Thirsk' and his eleven children (what's so fearsome about that?) lived at the Micklegate, York, with seven servants. I see her singing a couple of times, but more often in the society pages. Bertha went off to London, married Warren Bruce Smith 'of Aubrey Lodge, Emsworth', and died a few years later.

The rest .. they show up once or twice, with or without an initial ... and vanish again ... back into their real lives ...

Post scriptum. There is one singer whom I must mention. When Annie Hoyle went off and wed, her replacement as soprano was a lady billed as 'Madame F Shaw' .. 'of Harrogate'.  She was apparently a good vocalist. Anyhow, she had only just become Mrs Frederic William Shaw: up till now she had been Mary Ann Lupton (b Wortley x 25 December 1864), and a tailoress who sang. I see her in concerts from 1885. Her mother, née Ann Haywood, was also a singer. Mr Shaw subsequently became the registrar for Harrogate, and Mary Ann gave up singing and helped him in his job. They had a son, Arnold Lupton Shaw, and a daughter Sylvia Theodora (Mrs Lockhart) who did not carry the music into a third generation.

Well. That's what went on in the city of Leeds ...  it was fun to visit it 130 years later .. all because of a little bit of blue paper ..