Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Music Hall in the C19th: Kate Royle


Why did I get into this one?  Because the music sheet loooked so deliciously cheap and colurful, I guess... also, I didn't have the faintest who the people involved were. 

The point of the thing was that George Sims and Henry Pettit's Adelphi drama Harbour Lights was from December 1885, a decided hit at the Adelphi Theatre. This ditty, of course, had nothing to do with the drama: it was merely cashing in on the buzz-word title, ('suggested by') much as a third-rate so-called 'tribute' band cashes in on the name and reputation of its 'original'. Lord knows if Ms Kate Royle's music had any quality, or the lyric penned by her husband, Joseph Sidney Long any value, but it didn't really matter what was behind illustrated covers like these ...

So who were Kate Royle and J T Long, I wondered. 

Well, Kate [Emily] Royle was of good music-hall pedigree. 'A charming serio and dancer' herself, she was one of the daughters of the former Mary Ann Dunn, known on the music-halls of Britain as Mrs F R Phillips (b 1830; d 10 December 1899). Father was Frederick Powis Royle, a sometime looking-glass manufacturer who converted into a 'professor of music'.

Kate, however, apparently saw herself rather as a composer/songwriter and went to it with a will. In 1882 she was supplying material to Newham and Latimar, for Nellie Wilson and, after her liaison with Long, they supplied William Ward and Nellie Eveley, Jessie Acton ('What's Next', 'Hey Diddle Diddle'), Julia Rosenburg (another occasional piece 'The Royal Jubilee'), Miss Mainstone, the rather more consequent Hetty Chapman

Hetty Chapman

Miss Raine Hampden, Cerise and Cora Caselli, Kate Toole (once of the D'Oyly Carte) ... she teamed with Fred Bowyer on a couple of numbers for G H MacDermott 

I notice she has climbed in class and has a Concanen cover here!

She also supplied Harry Randall, James Fawn ('She trotted me off to church') and doubtless others with tunes for similar pieces. 

The Longs persisted a while. He gave up performing and became a variety agent, then front of house at the Winter Gardens Southport, then a picture framer. She gave piano lessons.

Joseph seemingly died in 1904. Kate perhaps in 1924. They left three children to carry on the line ...

Which I guess is where I stop. But .... 'Miss Farrell'?   MISS?  Well, she wasn't. But who would expect anything else. She was actually Mrs Ellen ('Nelly') Farrell. And for a while, she was considered the best 'Irish' lassie on the British music hall scene.  It seems she wasn't even Irish. Well, maybe Birmingham Irish?  And her birth name seems to have been Billingsley. Bit iffy this. And her husband ... er ... William Farrell or William Roach (1860-1898)  .. married (25 July 1881) after the birth of two daughters ... ??? Hmmmm. Seems that's right ...

But Nelly had nearly a decade as a well-billed popular songstress before her descent into depression, divorce and booze. Even if she didn't perform 'Harbour Lights' anywhere that I can see.

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