The Irving Society Newsletter No 51


Concert Artistes’ Association, 20 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9HP
Sunday, 7 February, 2010, at 3.00pm
Report Michael Kilgarriff Photos Sylvia Starshine

At the Irving Statue a record number of members and guests watched in admiration as Frank Barrie, with a deft twist of the wrist, lobbed our Birthday wreath precisely into place between the bronze feet of the man we all admire so much. A grand tribute from one actor to another across the years.

Due to the kindness of Glen Hayes, Vice-President of the CAA, we were once again able to hold our AGM at an address which Irving knew well, for the building had once been the home of the Green Room Club as well as providing him with offices after he lost control of the Lyceum Theatre.

Our Chair, Frances Hughes, opened the proceedings by welcoming members and guests who had come from as far afield as Cardiff, the Wirral, Manchester and Glasgow. Highlights of the Society’s year had included a party to The Winter’s Tale at the Old Vic and the Annual Dinner, held for the first time at the New Cavendish Club, London W1, an evening deemed so successful that a repeat booking for this coming October has already been made. The Hon Secretary, the Hon Treasurer and the Committee were all praised for their work and their commitment.

The Hon Sec reported that the Society now boasted 111 members, one more than last year. The death of Veronica Hickie was noted with deep regret, and the presence among us of her three daughters who had come to honour their Mother’s devotion to Irving and the Society was acknowledged with heartfelt applause.

The customary thanks were offered to Hilary Phillips for maintaining her generous tradition of providing the wreath, to Gavin Clarke, archivist of the National Theatre, for providing a committee room, and to Richard Wadhams of Hogben Dunphy for auditing our accounts gratis.

Raffle prizes this year were a terracotta bust of HI (donated by Brian Manvell), a framed print of HI as Vanderdecken (Alex Bisset) and sundry items of memorabilia including a Louis XI Lyceum programme from Mrs Bateman’s time as manager (Hon Sec). The splendid sum of £106 was raised, making the Hon Treas, Sylvia Starshine, very happy.

In her report Sylvia pronounced herself content with the state of the Society’s finances, but nevertheless the subs, unchanged for four years, would have to be raised this coming October.

Sir Donald Sinden displayed a frock coat which he had been given by the wardrobe mistress of the Birmingham Repertory Company; it had been donated by Sir John Martin-Harvey who claimed it had been worn by HI as Dubosc in The Lyons Mail. Further researches on the garment will be undertaken by Sylvia.

The Society’s officers were re-elected unopposed, and the Committee was also voted in unopposed. A new member on the Committee is Michael Gaunt, replacing Brian Manvell who is retiring. The Chair applauded Brian’s work for and devotion to the Society, to which Brian responded by pleading age (90 this year) and increasing difficulties in travelling from Stratford-upon-Avon for meetings. The meeting showed its appreciation and affection by giving him a rousing ovation.

Well received also was Michael Gaunt’s Heritage Lecture entitled An Unrequited Profession, in which Prof Gaunt, by outlining the careers of G. F. Cooke, Edmund Kean and Macready, with side references to other major actors of the era – the Kembles, Mrs Siddons, J. B. Booth, Phelps and of course Irving—showed that despite hardships, the nineteenth-century Stage could provide a fulfilling and respected career.

After his talk Prof Gaunt cut the Birthday Cake; wine was taken and as usual members indulged the final hour in animated conviviality. Altogether an excellent meeting. One of the best.


  1. Collection of 180 theatre programmes from Irving to Olivier including : The Merchant of Venice Lyceum 1898, King Henry the Eighth Lyceum 1892 (100th perf.), Madame Sans-Gêne
    Lyceum 17 May 1897, Cymbeline Lyceum 11 November 1896. For a full list contact Bren Bailey on
  2. Although we failed to persuade Royal Mail to issue a commemorative stamp for HI’s centenary in 1905, it is now possible to order bespoke 1st class stamps with a sticker of Irving attached. These ‘Smilers’ are available from me for £1 each. Please enclose an SAE. Or you can generate your own from After ordering, I was rung by Royal Mail to ask whether we had copyright clearance for the photo, and was it Gregory Peck…?! Ed.


2 Rose Alley, London SE1 9AS
tel: 020 7261 9565

The first theatre on Bankside was built by Philip Henslowe in 1587. Its stage saw the original performances of plays by Kyd and Marlowe as well as Shakespeare’s Henry VI part 1 and Titus Andronicus, so we can be sure that the establishment of a permanent display area, performance space and educational and historical resource at the site would have had HI’s full support.

The Rose Theatre Trust needs funds to make this project a reality and to continue excavations. Please consider making a donation or, better still, becoming a Friend.


Report by Brian Manvell

This year ’s AGM was held on Wednesday, 24 February, in the Ellen Terr y building of Coventry University. Although both the Chair of the Fellowship, Eric Stringer and the Hon Sec, Joyce Stringer, were present they felt unable to perform their official functions owing to temporary indisposition; accordingly, the formalities were presided over with her usual aplomb by our own Chair, Frances Hughes. Tina Gray, President, sent her apologies for absence due to a professional engagement in Edinburgh. However, Ellen Terry Craig and her sister Marie Taylor, E T ’ s great-granddaughters, were among the guests.

Official matters being concluded, David Brind gave an interesting lecture on the work of Gordon Craig with especial reference to his designs for the Barn Theatre at Smallhythe. Full size reproductions were displayed including one which stretched almost the whole width of the room, this being the size of the Barn’s proscenium.

Following this a group of second year Performing Arts Faculty students gave an extract from Thornton Wilder’s allegory of mankind The Skin of Our Teeth or, as the auth or himself termed it, ‘The history of the world in comic strip’. Limited as they were by lack of depth in the performing area, the students gave a very creditable account, attacking their roles with enthusiasm and justifying the warm applause which followed.

Entertainment over, we had time to spare for socialising and coffee.


Colin Hague

Members might care to be reminded that The Stage archive is available on the internet at Records are available from the first edition in 1880 until 2007. Subs range from £150 for a full year’s unlimited access down to just £5 for 24 hours.


It was with sadness that we learned of David’s sudden death on 18 March at the age of 74. A member of the Society for many years, he was a former Information Officer at The Theatres Trust and
Librarian of the Faculty of Art and Design at Middlesex Polytechnic. His publications include numerous articles, bibliographies and studies of the Music Hall as well as a biography of Ellen Terry.


Pickering & Chatto are delighted to announce the publication of Volume 1 in their new series, The Collected Letters of Ellen Terry, edited by Katharine Cockin. This series will cover eight volumes and run until 2017, bringing c. 3000 previously unpublished letters from fifteen archives worldwide into the public domain.

Although subject to selective destruction, the remaining cache shows Terry’s exuberant prose style and extensive range of correspondents, including W. E. Gladstone, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), George Bernard Shaw and Bram Stoker.

More information can be found at:


Wednesday, 19 May, at 6.00pm
Westminster Reference Library
35 St Martin’s Street
London WC2H 7HP

Illustrated talk by Catherine Leonard on the RSC’s Costume Collection including items worn by HI and Ellen Terry. Bookings: Peter Collins 020 7641 5250 Admission Free. Coffee gratis.

Saturday, 19 June, at 2.00pm
Kensal Green Cemetery, London

Conducted tour in conjunction with the STR, concentrating on the graves of Victorian theatrical, literary and artistic figures, eg Macready, Bateman, Toole. £10 inc. light refreshments and a
specially printed guide. Places limited. Guides only: £4. Bookings: Hon Sec (see below)

Friday, 22 October
New Cavendish Club
44 Great Cumberland Place
London W1H 7BS
Annual Dinner

Details t.b.a.

All communications to:
Michael Kilgarriff, Editor/Hon Sec
The Irving Society
10 Kings Avenue, London W5 2SH
tel & fax: 020 8566 8301

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