Saturday, February 24, 2024

Pretty Minnie: a Gaiety girl gone too soon ...

This lovely photo came up in my daily ebay trawl ...

Well, I think she is lovely. And named, too. Here goes my morning. Like Lalage Potts, 'I want to know'.

I didn't know what I was getting into. But, after heavy delving, here are the answers.

Minnie ROSS [ROSS, Williamina] (b 17 Montieth Row, Calton, Glasgow 22 June 1863; d Ventnor, Isle of Wight 22 December 1892) was one of the multiple daughters of 'actor' William Gribbon Ross and his second wife Maria née Moroney from Embly, Tipperary.

Gribbon? Oh, blimey, this is W G ROSS (b 31 July 1819; d 23 April 1881) of 'Sam Hall' megafame. Well, I shan't delve too deeply into his details: he must be in every book ever written about the Halls ..

Ross had begun his career in Scotland .. I see him performing there in 1845 ...

but by 1848 he had moved to London. He found a niche for his character songs at the Cyder Cellars, where his songs 'Mr(s) Johnson' and, especially 'Sam Hall' with its portrayal of a condemned chimey-sweep and its volley of violent oaths, proved a major hit.  W G Ross and 'Sam Hall' were inseparable thereafter.

His family. Well, as far as I can see, he had one daughter (Lillian) by his first wife, Jane née MILLER, then after his marriage to Mary Moroney (Argyll, 19 September 1853) I pick from the censi Sarah Margaret (21 November 1853), Maria Emma (30 June 1855), Isabella (30 March 1857), Elizabeth Kate (Clerkenwell  30 March 1859), Ada Mary (1861), Emma L, and Minnie .. ..

Few lived long lives. Elizabeth died as an infant, Lillian (Mrs Geo T Saunders) died 28 February 1875 aged 32, Sarah died 1877 aged 23, Isabel 'actress' died aged 24 (10 December 1881) ... I'm not sure whether Emma L is fact or fiction ...

Only Maria Emily (Mrs Geo Abraham Riley) who died in Quebec in 1933, and Ada Mary (Mrs, Wm Robt Shephard, Mrs Geo A Hill) who died in Edmonton in September 1933 survived (with mother) into the 20th century. 

Although Isabel described herself as an 'actress' (she was a 'fancy box maker' in C71), Minnie seems to have been the only one of the Ross girls to go into the theatre. And she went early. In April 1877 already I see her playing a bit in The Flying Scud and 'Sugarcandos' in Sinbad at the Glasgow, the next year being decoration in Annie Baldwin's company and principal girl in Bluebeard in Glasgow. She went on the road with George Capel's modest companies and the Majiltons, appeared at Islington, as another panto Princess, at Bristol, as principal boy as the North Woolwich Gardens, as Little Red Riding Hood at York (our picture?) and went on the road in Taken from Life ... a modest record, but she was not yet twenty!

She played the genie of the lamp in Aladdin at Glasgow, played in Mark Melford's  A Reign of Terror with Violet Melnotte, 'light comedy, soubrettes and burlesque'. Then she got a fine job. The term 'Gaiety girl' was not yet in current use,  but that's what Minnie became. She joined George Edwardes's Monte Cristo jr tour company as Babette, continued into Faust up to Date ('a waitress') and Carmen up to Data ('an hidalgo'). The latter show ended in July 1891, but she didn't go on into the next Gaiety piece...

Pretty Minnie Ross died in Ventnor at the end of 1892. Ventnor? Was she there for her health? What was wrong with her health? A death certificate could assuage my curiosity. But her death registration says she was 25. She wasn't. She was 29 going on 30. Strange, how folk seem to think it needful to shave their age after they are dead. Is there a man in the case? No sign of one. But I do note that she claimed in the 1891 census to be living on her income. 

You are a wee bit of a puzzle, Minnie. But I am sorry you died so young and beautiful.


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