Wednesday, December 17, 2008

17 December: ABC Wednesday - V

V is for Ventriloquist, who appeared in Variety shows.

This is Maude Edwards, Lady Ventriloquist, with her doll, the little stable boy.

Maude was born in 1886 in Corporation Street, Birmingham, the sixth of eight children of a Horse Keeper (and reputed former jockey). You don't see many horses round there nowadays.

She made her stage debut in 1905, trained and managed by her older brother Tom Edwards, also a ventriloquist, and later a successful theatrical manager. In October 1906 she sailed to the US, where she toured American Music Halls until May 1907. At some point after her return, she decided that brother Tom was taking too large a slice of her earnings, and sued him in the High Court. She won her case, with costs, causing another of the family's well-known "all-fired" rows, and of course a huge rift between the siblings.

She worked in Music Halls in many places, and often toured the North-East of England. She met James Cameron, a singer in a group called The Cameron Quartette (3 Cameron brothers, sometimes with a 4th brother, and sometimes with a friend). They were married in St. Nicholas' Cathedral, Newcastle, early in 1910, and later that year their only child was born in Whitley Bay - they were still on tour.

World War 1 interrupted James' career; he was on the way home from a successful tour of Australia when war broke out. He served in the Royal Flying Corps.

Radio killed off the Music Halls, of course, and Maude retired from the stage. Until about 1940 they lived in Brixton, which was a popular place with theatrical folk in the first half of the 20th century.

Much later, after James died (on Christmas Day, 1955), Maude went to live in a retirement home for former stage folk, a home which was run by the Order of Water Rats (a charity organised by people involved in variety), and funded partly by the Royal Variety Performance. She died in 1976.

Maude and James were my grandparents.


RuneE said...

A highly original and personal V - thank you for sharing!

Murph said...

She may have bumped into John Major.

babooshka said...

Very interesting but I must admit to always being a little afraid of them.

stitchwort said...

Thank you.

Murph - wasn't his family rather later than the 1910s? And circus?

Powell River Books said...

Very interesting. I would think she was quite progressive for her time. I invite you to come see my very white day in Coastal BC. -- Margy

Jay said...

Wow - what a very interesting family you have! I wonder what else is lurking in your family tree!