I discovered Ethel Oliver from someone who responded to my post about The Gaiety Girls and what an interesting discovery she was. Most Victorian and Edwardian actresses came from theatrical families or at least were supported by their mothers at the outset of their career but Emily Lloyd, as she then was, ran away from home to go on stage. Having been born in Burma in 1874, the youngest daughter of Lt-Colonel Malcolm Lloyd of HM Madras Staff Corps she was brought to England at the age of two, by her mother Louise, after her father’s sudden death. In 1893, nineteen year old Ethel married Sydney Douglas Edward Hall, whose father had been an officer of the Bengal cavalry and from this point her acting name was Ethel Sydney. It is in this name that she is listed in the programme of George Edwards’ production of “A Gaiety Girl”. In newspaper articles she is praised for her ability as a comedy actress as well as her fine singing voice.
After playing the title role in The Shop Girl on Broadway in 1895 there was a pause in her career for the birth of her son in 1898. In the 1901 census Ethel is listed in her married name, accompanied by her son Durham Hall staying at the South Shore Hydro, Blackpool along with the cast of the play in which she was performing. But her marriage did not survive as in 1902 she divorced Sydney Hall, citing his denial of conjugal rights and she later married Samuel Robinson Oliver, a man of independent means. This was when she changed her stage name to the better recognised Ethel Oliver.
However, in 1911 allegations of adultery with John Upton Gaskell were made against Ethel by her husband, Samuel. Guy Oliver, the child she and Samuel Oliver had in 1905, remained in his father’s custody. Once the divorce was finalised, she married John Gaskell and in 1913 they had a son, Peter Upton. At her last three marriages Ethel gave misinformation about her age, probably because she was considerably older than her spouses.
Ethel’s last husband, Alistair Ian Matheson, was at 25, half Ethel’s age but on the marriage certificate in 1924, she is listed as “of full age”. Alistair Matheson had been a 2nd Lieutenant during the First World War and then became a commercial artist specialising in animation including the Bonzo cartoon for New Era Films. Despite the age difference Ethel and Alistair remained together for the rest of her life. Ethel died in London in 1967, her husband a year later.
For the first 10 years of my life we lived in a terraced house in a long cul-de-sac in a part of Surrey which now seems to be called south London. It was a quiet road where you could play on your scooter or your roller skates on the pavement and nobody owned a car. Downstairs we had a Front Room, nicely furnished for use at Christmas or occasional Saturdays when my grandparents arrived in a taxi for tea.
At the end of the hall was the Living Room where we spent most of our time. There was a coal fire with three comfy chairs, a utility dining table with 4 chairs and a sideboard on which the very important Wireless sat. That’s a radio if you are unsure.
My early memories include Listen with Mother where I heard songs such as “One, two, three, four, five; Once I caught a fish alive” and I could march up and down the hill with "The Grand Old Duke of York". Rhymes like "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" growing neat rows of silver bells and cockleshells and the King of Spain's Daughter with her "Little Nut Tree" which only grew a silver nutmeg and a golden pear were also shared. "Polly Put the Kettle On, We'll All Have Tea”, Seemed to end most of the programmes!
On Saturday Children’s Favourites was presented by Uncle Mac, playing such songs as, The happy Wanderer, Arthur Askey's Bee Song, Nellie the Elephant, The Runaway Train and How much is that doggy in the window? My real favourite was a song often played on the adult part of The Light Programme. I called it My Scots Blue Bell, but apparently it was really called “I Love a Lassie” by Harry Lauder. I also enjoyed hearing “I love to go a Wandering” The only programme I can remember from Children’s Hour on weekday afternoons was the wonderful Larry the Lamb who lived in Toytown.
Sometimes at lunchtime my mother and I would listen to Workers' Playtime which was a variety programme started during World War II. It was broadcast at lunchtime, three times a week, live from a factory canteen "somewhere in Britain". It included singers and comedians like Ken Dodd and Julie Andrews. Later my mother listened to Woman’s Hour which apparently included items on, “keeping house, health, children, beauty care and home furnishing and interviews with women of note such as Vera Lynn.”
There had to be a daily dose of The Archers, “an every day story of country folk,” and I can still hear the voice of Mrs Dale from Mrs Dale’s Diary telling us in her catchphrase, "I'm rather worried about Jim..."
There were some great comedy programmes including The Navy Lark including actors still well remembered today, Ronnie Barker, Jon Pertwee and Leslie Phillips. My particular favourite was The Clitheroe Kid because he was so naughty. But when Dad was at home he often tuned off the Light programme onto the Home Service for the news and weather.
We also spent hours as a family playing Cribbage, Canasta, Snakes and Ladders or Monopoly but as I was an only child, I usually won.And then the television arrived. In 1957 only two children in my class no longer had a TV at home, a boy called Paul and me! But my parents succumbed. Now I could watch the wonderful cartoon about Popeye the sailor man, his girlfriend Olive Oyl and the miraculous cans of spinach which made him strong. I also enjoyed westerns like Rawhide and Bonanza, but Bonanza went on till 9 o'clock and i was supposed to go to bed at 8.30. Luckily my mother started to go to an Evening class that night and Dad let me stay up to see the end of the programme! There was usually a children's serial on Sunday afternoon on BBC like The Silver Sword or Great Expectations but then I was told we had to turn the TV off to let it cool down before Sunday Night at the London Palladium with Bruce Forsythe so I wasn't allowed to see Adam Faith or Cliff Richard in the Oh Boy! programme.
Those were the days!
Linferd Ware was the Great Uncle who most intrigued me and until this week he was also uncompleted, a brick wall. He was the third child of my Great Grandfather George Ware and his second wife, Rebecca Linferd, born on July 1st 1875. Like all their children he was born above the Town Hall in the Saturday Market Place Kings Lynn. This was because his father was Police Superintendent based in the Town Gaol next door.
Linferd’s story reads like the life of an over-active butterfly. By the age of 15 he was living in Regents Park Barracks in London as a Bandsman in the First Lifeguards Brigade. The life obviously didn’t suit him so with his father’s help he purchased a discharge for £18 and soon after returning home he joined the Lynn police. There were suggestions of nepotism when he was soon given more responsibility, so he moved to the police force in Nottingham where he worked as a young detective constable. However by 1895 he was attracted to the military again, this time joining the Royal Dragoons, once again as a musician. He was now aged 21, 5 foot 10 inches tall, weighing 137 lbs. He had hazel eyes and dark hair. This time he remained in the army for 3 years before once more purchasing his discharge. Later that year Linferd Ware married Katherine Clarke (Kitty), daughter of the Kings Lynn Dock Master. At that time Linferd is listed as a Coal Merchant.
Linferd appears twice in the 1901 census. Once with his wife living in the centre of Southampton, occupation musician and Ship steward and in the other entry he is named as a steward aboard the steam yacht, Erin, lying off Hythe in Southampton water. The Erin has an interesting history. At the time it belonged to Sir Thomas Lipton, who also owned the Shamrock II one of the entries to the Americas cup. Linferd must have been aboard the Erin on April 30th 1901 when it towed Shamrock II to New York.
|A Model of the Steam Yacht Erin|
We moved away from Surrey in 1961 and so I didn't ride on another trolley bus till 1968 when I arrived in Reading, Berkshire to discover they still had trolley buses. Meanwhile in Glasgow on holiday I was able to ride on trams for many years.
The Gothic Temple