Tuesday, February 15, 2022

From Funambulist and Pyrotechnician to Australian dancing girls ...


Yesterday, I came on a curious theatrical photo. Saucy girl dancers? But. This photo was taken in Melbourne, Australia. It was asking to be investigated!

 The vendor had it labelled as the 'Sisters Davablic". Errrr ... I don't think so!

The sisters Davalli .. or, recte, Duvalli ... which, of course, wasn't their name at all ... but little did I realise just how complex and fascinating finding my way to their real names and family history would be.

On 23 August 1869 our girls took the Essex, out of London, under contract to the Theatre Royal, Melbourne. On 10 November 1869 the 'Misses Duvalli' (operatic and acrobatic dancers) -- Heloise and Rosalie -- and Mr C F Coutts arrived in Australia. 'Mr Coutts' (ex-watchmaker turned comedian) was Heloise's real, legitimate husband. The ship's manifest says that Heloise was 20, Rosalie 22, and Charles 26. Well, er ...

Charles was born Charles Findlay. Rosalie Edith Irvine was born and registered in Berkshire in 1842, so was, thus, 27. So maybe the 2 is a 7? Heloise Agnes Irvine, who was really her sister, seems to have missed registration. Unless she was just plain Agnes. Her gravestone, in Sydney's Waverley Cemetery, says that she was born 1849. If so, she was married at 16 (21 August 1865), a mother at 17, performing at 10 ... Oh, and I think their name was not really Irvine at all ... but we'll get to that ...

Anyway, the girls made their Aussie debut 4 December 1869

They were delightedly received, and went on to appear as Harlequin and Columbine in Akhurst's pantomime The House that Jack Built. They ended up staying till February of 1871, and in that time Rosalie took herself a husband, J Charles Hall of the Theatre Royal company, who became part of the act.

The four purveyed their act around the music halls of England, before returning to Australia in 1874 for a more extended period, and though they voyaged to Asia and America in the years to come, it was Australia which they -- and their widowed mother -- made their home. 

Ah. The widowed mother. This is where it gets interesting. Mother's maiden name was Gyngell. Louise Malvina Gyngell. She was born in Bow 23 February 1808, one of the children of Daniel Gyngell 'musician' and his second wife, Louisa Perry. I suspect 'musician' may have been an approximation, for I think this 1815 advertisement is our man 

'The Swinging wire'. And there he is as early as 1805 plying the same well-regarded booth show. Musical glasses and slack rope vaulting by Master [Joseph] Gyngell. There's conjuring and marionettes and this and that, balacing an egg on a wheat straw ('the English equilibrist').

Three years on the Continent ..  and in 1819 come into the show Master H[oratio] Gyngell and Miss L Gyngell 'only nine years of age'.  Its Mama. By 1824 she has graduated to the tight rope 'from the stage to the gallery', the corde elastique and by 1826 the 'daring ascension on the fiery rope' which would become her trademark. By 1828 she is performing with a Signor Georgia and his display of fireworks ... and playing the harp! 1830 ...

And then, in 1831, Mama got married. She married a man named Thomas Wilkinson. That's what the records say. I wonder if he were 'Signor Georgia'

Anyway, she is still performing as Miss Gyngell in 1835 and ... what?  'Miss Gyngell met her death by a fall from a rope'???  Which Miss Gyngell? Why, the wife of 'Signor [de] Irvine'. 

Louise did fall from her rope, while performing at Covent Garden in 1837. But she only broke her arm, and she came back. But these days(since 1833?) she was under a new name ..

Signor is 'principal assistant'?

I mean 'de Irving'? What is this? We know that this gentleman's name was Thomas. Is this Thomas Wilkinson under a new appellation? Or has he gone by the wayside at some stage? Did Louise marry this man who apparently gave her four children - Ethelbert, Rosalie, Heloise and Edwy -- that we know of ... and who died, as Thomas Irvin, in 1863 (1 November) at Leeds. Or were they just de facto? What they became was, in 1842, 'Duvalli' ...   

Not Louise. She was permanently sidelined from climbing her ropes by her pregnancies. But father became 'Signor Duvalli' 'the British Blondin', tightroping across the Thames and, most famously, the River Tyne. And the girls went into the halls, around 1859, as 'the Sisters Duvalli'.

Louise's two sons died young. Edwy Hubert aged 19 (23 October 1863), Ethelbert in Australia at 26 (9 January 1873). She erected this monument to the two of them, and to her husband 'Clement Duvalli ascensionist and hero of the Tyne' who had followed his elder son to an unconsecrated grave three days later.

Clement? In 1842 he was 'Signor Nicolo Duvalli'. Sigh. 

There is little more to say.

Heloise (d Darlinghurst 16 May 1904) and Mr Finlay-Coutts (d Darlinghurst 4 June 1912) had a second daughter, in Australia.  Their elder, English daughter, as Rosalie Coutts-Duvalli (b Medway 1967) became a harpist, the second, Heloise Claire Duvalli-Coutts (b Melbourne, 9 November 1887), under the name of Heloise Alva, worked as a vocalist and musician, often in tandem with her sister. She married a Mr Norman Thomas from San Francisco.

Rosalie (d Darlinghurst 13 July 1912) outlived her husband, Hall, (d Darlinghurst  1 February 1907)

I'm sure there's more to know.  A clutch of birth certificates would help ...  maybe someone else can fill in the gaps ...



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