Monday, February 28, 2022

Mr Smith and Mr Jones: their panto song 1881


An unusual sheet music cover. Sadly, only the cover, it seems. I'd rather like to have heard the song ...

I daresay not many copies survive, for it was a number tried as part of the patchwork score of one provincial pantomime and seemingly, thereafter, put away. 

The pantomime in question was the 1881-2 Leeds Grand annual, Little Red Riding Hood, and it had some fair names attached to it. The producer was Wilson Barrett, the author was J Wilton Jones, the writer of many such, Jenny Hill was principal boy, Addie Blanche was one of the two principal girl, Kissie Wood the other, Harry Rickards was the villain, William Walton was the dog ...

Amongs these fine music-hall topbillers, Mr Henry C Arnold appeared as Mother Hubbard, and Mr J S Haydon as the wolf.

Now, John S Haydon (b Oxfordshire, 1837-1907) was a familar name in the midlands; more than forty years a dramatic actor (and, as we see here, a comic dramatic actor) ... I see him first at Leamington in the 1860s, and lastly in 1906, just before his death ... a long professional biography appears in the Leamington Spa Courier of 31 May 1901. If I cannot find out more about his personal background (yet), I have been much more successful with Messrs Arnold and Stamford. It was not an easy dig, for both men operated under noms de théâtre, and their real names were ... Mr Smith and Mr Jones.

Let's go with our dame comedian first. "Henry C Arnold". His birth name was apparently Hamilton Smith. Maybe Hamilton Clarke Smith. He said on his marriage certificate that his father was also Hamilton Clarke Smith, traveller, deceased. I think that may be fiction. Anyway, he seems to have been born in Liverpool, and I guess that is he working as a pawnbroker's apprentice in 1871. Born 1856? But the British records have no Hamilton Smith born between .. ahha!!! Hamilton Smith CLARKE. Born Everton, 9 July 1855. The familiar scenario. Daddy was a traveller .. by name Daniel Clarke. Mother was Matilda, probably Miss Smith.

It seems that Ham didn't broke pawn for long. Still in his teens, he hit the boards and 'Mr H C Arnold' can be seen in the 1872 Disney Roebuck pantomime The Fair One With the Golden Locks at Kidderminster, then in 1873 in the company at Southport, already in a travesty role. At Christmas he was Bluebeard in the panto at Ashton-under Lyme. In 1876, he was in the company at the Rotunda, Liverpool, director and md, Mr 'Charles Wood'. Mr Wood's teenage daughter, Miss 'Kissie Wood' was also a member, and the next year the young couple were married

And we discover that Kissie is actually Kezia Redfern. Anyway, the couple had a solid marriage which lasted till death did them part, and also worked alongside each other frequently through good provincial careers, in the later part of which Ham turned producer ..

I note that the ageing John S Haydon leads the cast ... and down the list is Miss Entwistle, daughter of Kissie's sister Mary, and 'Mr H C Arnold junior' so, it appears that, under one name or another the 'Arnolds' had a son. And, yes ... in the 1911 census, in Everton, Kezia gives '5 children, two living'.  The other was daughter, Dorothy, who also took up the theatre as 'Dorothy Clarke-Smith' (b Kirkdale 19 February 1893). 

Ham died at 14 Carstairs Rd Liverpool 12 November 1920 and is buried at Anfield. Kissie died in April 1928 in Devon, and is also buried in Anfield.

So, that's Mr Smith (ish). Now John J[ones] Stamford. Born plain John Jones born near Swansea. Sorry, but I should have no idea which John Jones is he! He turned out words and/or tunes for a plethora of songs of which 'What a Wonder', The Pride of the Regiment, All Have a Liquor', Don't tell your sister', 'Please do not tease me', 'When I say "no"' and 'Oh what a wicked young man you are' for Ethel Victor, 'Hang Up Your Hat Behind the Door (that leads into the shop)', 'Where was Moses when the light went out', 'Poor But a Gentleman Still', 'Turn off the Gas at the Metre', 'Jeremiah, blow the fire' and the durable 'Macnamara's Band' (one of 73 songs written for Billy Ashcroft, and the Alhambra) give the flavour.  He took over the management of the Belfast Alhambra and then the Dundee Music Hall, but returned to Belfast where he later turned from music-hall manager to publican and 'spirit merchant', before his death, 24 May 1899.

So now I know. And it was fun finding out ...

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