Quicker than you can say Jack Robinson

Actually, it would be a darn sight quicker to say Jack Robinson with only four syllables than the eleven syllables in the name Matilda Martha Caroline Robinson – the stem of this blog post. Daughter of William Thomas Robinson and Elizabeth Robinson, nee Peters, a successful petition to present Matilda to the School was made in 1839. She became a pupil in October of that year. Her father met the criterion for indigence as his profession ebbed and flowed. He is variously described as a wine cooper, gentleman, inn porter, wine merchant and a waiter. Whether his occupation varied quite as much as this or if what he did depended on who was describing him, the sub-text perhaps suggests a precarious income. This would have left his family – 4 children and a wife – never knowing whether they were in penury or clover.

Of Matilda’s time at school there are no extant records other than her arrival there, her presence in the 1841 census return at the School and her departure on 17 April 1845, delivered to her father. Six years later, we find her living with her brother Charles @ 18 Great Bland Street, Newington and earning a living as a dressmaker. This street is now called Burge St.

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/

In 1859, Matilda married Edwin Charles Frederick Hare who was in the Royal Marines band as a drummer but by 1871 was a ‘Professor of Musick’ in Lambeth.

Matilda’s life as mapped out in census returns showed that she lived her entire life in London, south of the river. These also showed that her maths wasn’t very good as she was 20 in 1851, 26 in 1861, 33 in 1871, 43 in 1881 and 61 in 1891, the year she died. Of these, only the last is correct! Together Matilda and Edwin gave rise to a showbiz family spanning two generations. And even the next generation but one down has been involved – briefly – in the film industry. In 1973 Matilda and Edwin’s great-great grandchildren, whilst watching their grandmother film On the Buses, had small parts as extras. (Information from http://onthebusesfanclub.com/id20.html) And also as a by the bye, Matilda’s great-niece, descended from her brother Charles, was also an actor – Muriel George (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muriel_George) so there is clearly a strong thespian streak running in the genes.

But let’s try and put this is a sensible order. Matilda and Edwin’s son Herbert Hare married Kate Tansley in 1892 and they ran a travelling theatre company. In 1901 they were in Eglwysilan, Glamorgan in a caravan on the recreation ground with two daughters.

Class: RG13; Piece: 5000; Folio: 121; Page: 11

The theatre company seemingly comprised three caravans with the Hare family in one, the Orton family in another and the Tansleys in a third, Edward & Emma Tansley being Kate Hare’s parents. Frustratingly, even though John Orton was described as a travelling photographer, it has proved impossible to find any images of the caravan or the company but presumably they were horse drawn caravans similar to a Romany vardo. The Hares performed under the name of the Alexander Portable Theatre but the Ortons were part of the People’s Theatre which

toured the Monmouthshire area with their portable theatre from 1883 for about twenty years.’ (http://www.overthefootlights.co.uk/Entertaining%20South%20Wales%20A-B.pdf).

Bargoed was evidently a little hot spot for performing as there were five portable theatres and two cinemas listed at the beginning of the C20th. In addition, there was a 1500 seat playhouse, the New Hall Playhouse, ‘built in 1907 as part of a High Street complex which included a ballroom and a café.’ (ibid).

With Kate Hare also coming from an acting family – her father’s profession in 1892 is comedian and he is part of the company in 1901- it hardly comes a surprise to find that four of Herbert and Kate’s five children also joined the acting world: Bertie Hare, Doris Hare, Betty Hare and Winifred Hare, who used the stage name Winifred Braemar.

Bertie Hare was born in 1907 in Bargoed, Wales as Herbert Edwin Hare. Sadly, and unexpectedly, his father died just two months later after an emergency operation for a throat complaint (ibid). Bertie’s notable achievements – at least those noted on IMDb – appear to have come late in life: Hancock’s Half Hour in 1956 and Summer Camp Councillor in 1977. This last, originally entitled Confessions from a holiday camp, actually had all four of the Hare family in it but only Doris was a named character. Bertie died in 1991 in Camden.

Image shows Bertie and Betty as mourners https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075875/characters/nm0362782?ref_=ttfc_fc_cl_t25

Betty was born Bessie Maud Hare in Treharris in 1898. Her filmography on IMDb lists eighteen appearances from 1952 onwards although her appearance in Annie get your gun at the London Coliseum in 1948 is also noted. It seems likely, given the family heritage, that she had appeared on the stage before this time but IMDb does not reference it being primarily concerned with film and TV. The earliest in her filmography is Tread Softly (1952) which was made at Marylebone Studios and at the Granville Theatre in Fulham. described as a crime film with music. The last was Summer Camp Councillor and then, presumably, she retired. She died in Chichester just four years later. Like her sister Winifred, Betty had a part in For the Love of Ada also in 1977. In fact many of her later credits also appeared on her siblings’ credits. Perhaps it was a case of ‘you get me, you get them: you get them, you get me.’

Winifred and Betty were the two girls listed in the 1901 census with their parents. Winifred was born Winifred Emma Kate Hare in 1896 in Tonypandy. Like her brother, she had minor roles in a number of films late in life such as For the Love of Ada and Work is a 4 Letter word (1968)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0296640/ & https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062503/

She died in 1979 in Chichester so For the Love of Ada may well have been her last screen appearance. Earlier, she played the part of Winnie in On the Buses, a television series from 1969 to 1973 but still shown today on various channels (and with its own fan club). And also in this series was one Doris Hare as Mrs Butler, in 67 episodes (as opposed to Winifred’s three),

Doris was nine years younger than Betty, being born in 1905 in Bargoed, Monmouthshire. She made her stage debut aged 3 in her parents’ travelling theatre, the Alexander Portable Theatre, in their production of Current Cash. She worked the music halls and then had her West End debut at The Palace in The Scarlet Clue in 1916.

Her first West End hit came at the Adelphi Theatre in 1932, when she was 27, with John Mills in Noel Coward’s revue Words and Music. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/770685.stm

Image of Doris dated 1934 http://onthebusesfanclub.com/id142.html

She was still working in 1994 when she was in the film Second Best. Described in IMDb as a ‘popular comedienne of stage and screen’, to call Doris a jobbing actress would be to mislead but as she seemingly put it herself:

I’ll do anything, dear, as long as they pay me.

She had West End success in 1936 in a revue called Lights Up! and, during the war, she had radio work such as Shipmates Ashore for the Merchant Navy which earned her an MBE in the King’s birthday honours in 1946. In 1963, she joined the Royal Shakespeare company and, in 1965, the National Theatre at the Old Vic. She won a Variety Club of Great Britain Special Award for her contributions to show business in 1982 and made her final stage appearance, aged 87, at the London Palladium alongside John Mills in a tribute to Evelyn Laye. A role that she turned down was that of Ena Sharples in Coronation Street. She may never have been the star, but an acting career spanning 84 years is worth a credit or two.

The website http://onthebusesfanclub.com/id142.html has a photograph of the three Hare sisters taken whilst they were filming a Christmas Special in 1972. From left to right, Betty, Doris & Winifred.

 

Doris died in Denville Hall, a retirement home for actors in Northwood, in 2000. The list of former residents of this home reads like a Who’s Who of the great and good in the acting world.

https://www.denvillehall.org.uk/gallery-1

 

The phrase ‘before you can say Jack Robinson’ with which we started is one that has been in use since at least the eighteenth century. The phrase originated

“… from a very volatile gentleman of that appellation, who would call on his neighbours, and be gone before his name could be announced.” Grose’s 1811 edition of the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/jack-robinson.html)

Well Jack Robinson may have had little sticking power but the same is not true of the Hare acting dynasty. The little girl who was Matilda Martha Caroline Robinson, and a pupil between 1839 and 1845, may have been very surprised to learn that her descendants were definitely not gone before their names could be announced.

My thanks to SuBa for much of the initial research into this family.

Down Under Up Top: their stories

Down Under Up Top (https://rmsghistoryextra.wordpress.com/2019/07/26/down-under-up-top/) carried the information about early travel between Australia and UK which eight of our former pupils experienced. That gave the background so here, then, are those pupils who set sail from Oz outward.

Elizabeth Minnie Lumley was actually born ‘at sea’ off Adelaide in 1857. Her father was Chief Officer of SS United Service and it is possible his wife had travelled with him and that Elizabeth was therefore born on the United Service but this is unconfirmed. Whilst an image of SS United Service has not been found, it probably looked not dissimilar to the Great Eastern sailing in the same period.

https://www.iln.org.uk/iln_years/year/1857.htm

 

 

Elizabeth appeared on a census in 1861 in Limehouse aged 4 so we may assume that the family normally lived there whilst the father was away. His death in 1864, after two years’ absence at sea, made Elizabeth eligible as a pupil and she joined the School in about 1867. She left in 1873 as Gold Medallist and Head of the School, described by Miss Davis as “a particularly good and clever girl”. Despite her early venture on the high seas – or perhaps because of it – Elizabeth appears to have remained in UK for the rest of her life.

 

 

 

Florence Annie Hopkins was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1868 whilst three older siblings were born in New Zealand. Her father, as a serving soldier was, presumably, stationed in these places. Like Elizabeth, Florence appears to have travelled the High Seas as a baby because a younger brother was born in UK in 1869. In 1871, the family were at South Denes Barracks, Great Yarmouth, part of which was a Naval Hospital and lunatic asylum.

Image of Barracks map from https://www.greatwarforum.org;

Given Florence’s later occupation and place of work, this is interesting. In 1891, she was a nurse at Brookwood Asylum.

https://www.countyasylums.co.uk/brookwood-woking/

Unusually, Florence appears to have become a pupil following the death of her mother, not her father. He subsequently married twice more. After 1891, Florence disappears without trace so possibly she went overseas again but we do not know.

May Winifred Vockins was born on 21 March 1884 in Adelaide, Australia. Although not found on the 1891 census she must have been in UK about this time as she was admitted to Belleville Road School, Wandsworth in 1892 but joined RMIG not long afterwards. Her parents had been married in London in 1877 and a sister was born in Australia in 1878, sadly dying after just two months. Clearly the family were still there in 1888 as not only was May’s younger brother born there, but her father died there in that year.

After leaving school, May became a shorthand typist and she did not return to Australia but she did later travel in 1939 to New York. Clearly this was only a visit as she returned the same year and is present in the 1939 register. She went out on the Aquitania and returned on the Britannic, both vessels of the Cunard White Star line.

www.thegreatoceanliners.com/aquitania.html

& the Britannic https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19783396

Florence May Webb was born in Ipswich, Queensland and her application for a place at the School was supported by Raphael Lodge, No. 1850, a Queensland lodge. The Matron’s Book states that Florence ‘returned to school on 21 January 1901 having been absent & receiving treatment for curvature of the spine’ (scoliosis). At the time, this was usually treated with traction and a plaster cast together with remedial exercise to strengthen the muscles on the opposite side to the curvature. Florence was 15 in 1901, so she would have been due to leave school shortly and the Matron’s book duly records her departure in Dec 1902. Where she went thereafter is unknown. She is not found on the 1911 census but as she later married in Queensland and died there in 1936, presumably she returned to her place of birth.

Her father was Edward Robert Webb, MRCS. In 1880 he was in practice in London but by 1881 was in Queensland as Acting Surgeon Superintendent at Woogaroo Asylum being called to give evidence at one of the enquiries made into conditions at the asylum. (http://fhr.slq.qld.gov.au/committees/we_wh.htm)

Image of Woogaroo Asylum from http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au

Marjorie Gimblette was born in Fremantle on 25 May 1899. Marjorie’s parents had married in 1892 in Llanelli and in 1895 emigrated to Coolgardie, founded in 1892 with the discovery of quartz gold.

‘[Coolgardie] is located 510 kilometres east of Perth … At its peak in 1900 it had 23 hotels, 3 breweries, 6 banks, 2 stock exchanges and 3 daily and 4 weekly newspapers. The population then was 15,000, with 25,000 more in the area.’ http://www.outbackfamilyhistory.com.au/records/record.php?record_id=117&town=Coolgardie

Sadly, Marjorie’s father died on 2 Feb 1902 and was buried in Coolgardie cemetery. Despite this being a goldfield area, William Gimblette was in fact an accountant. After his death, his widow and daughter returned to UK. It is not known when but Gladys Mary Gimblette trained as a midwife and qualified in 1903 so it was probably immediately after his death that they sailed for ‘home’. Marjorie never returned to Australia and married in Llanelli before subsequently living in Llandudno (1939). She died in Aberystwyth in 1985.

Amy Margaret D’arcy Sugden was born 1 Apr 1894 in Queensland and, apart from the fact that masonic records have her supported by a Queensland lodge and refer to her as Australian, all other records place her in UK. Her father, D’Arcy Sugden, MRCS, is registered with a Masonic lodge in Bundaberg, Queensland in 1878 and he married in 1879. A son was born in 1883 in Queensland but died 12 months later. Lodge records show that D’Arcy had returned to UK by 1900 and was a member of Rahere Lodge in London, in the vicinity of Barts Hospital. We could probably infer that he was working there. In 1901, he is with a lodge in Buckfastleigh whilst his wife and daughter were in Sevenoaks, Kent so perhaps D’Arcy was preparing a home for them in Devon. Another son was born in Buckfastleigh in 1902 but the next record for D’Arcy is his death from double pneumonia on 30 December 1903. His death was attributed to his getting wet whilst attending an urgent case. Apart from one brief record, no travel documents have been found for the family but as no intercontinental time shift was available, they must have crossed the seas somehow and at some point between 1894 and 1900.

Amy was on the school roll by 1905 and would have left around 1909. In 1911 she was Crowborough, Sussex as a boarder and by 1939 is recorded as a shorthand typist @ 94 Herbert Road, High Wycombe, living with her widowed mother. Amy continued the family tradition of proving difficult to track down as we have to leapfrog to 1974 for the next record, which is her death. Her probate indicates that she was by then a resident of Davey Court Elderly People’s Home in Exmouth where she died on 12 Sept 1974.

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/

Annie Earnshaw Hewer was born 28 Oct 1903 and her sister Ethel Mary Hewer on 29 November 1905, both in Queensland. Their father, Alfred Earnshaw Hewer, was Government Medical Officer of Queensland. He had arrived in Australia in the 1890s and married Mary Emily Clerk on 23 Jan 1902, but he died in Hampstead, London on Oct. 17, 1910, aged 45. The family travelled from Australia and arrived in London on 14 Jun 1910. Given the date of the father’s death, one could assume that he was already very ill when he travelled. They travelled on the SS Runic, later torpedoed (1944) off the coast of Ireland.

Photo by Allan C. Green – This image from the Collections of the State Library of Victoria

 

By 1913, both girls were pupils at RMIG, Annie leaving in 1920 and Ethel in 1922. Annie undertook secretarial training and had a post at Australia House before, in 1921, returning to Australia with her mother on the SS Themistocles which sailed the London to Australia via Cape Town route.

Image from John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

 

 

 

 

Thereafter Annie remained in Queensland, married in 1932 but remained in contact with the School, via OMGA, until at least 1973.

Ethel also returned to Australia, in 1923, travelling on the same ship that had brought her to London in 1910. She trained as a nurse and wrote to the School in 1929 to say she had a job with Dr Wallis Heare and was engaged to be married. This marriage did not take place however and between 1936 (when she was at the same address as her mother in Queensland) and 1939 (when we find her in the 1939 register in Sevenoaks, Kent), Ethel undertook her third oceanic crossing. When she left Australia, it was probably the last time she saw her mother, who died in 1944 in Yungaburra, Queensland. In 1942, Ethel married in Hampstead and made her home in UK. She died in Surrey in 1996.

These all too brief biographical notes barely scratch the surface of their life stories but if any of them left diaries, as transoceanic passengers by boat were encouraged to do, the School is not aware of them. Nor do we have any images of them.

Unless you know better …