The Irving Society Newsletter No 58


Concert Artistes’ Association, 20 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9HP
Sunday, 5 February, 2012
Photos: Bunty Taylor Words: Michael Kilgarriff

Ellen Terry Craig
Ellen Terry Craig

Despite widespread heavy snow twenty-four enthusiasts from as far as Lancaster and Cardiff turned out to cheer Ellen Terry Craig as our Patron carried the annual wreath up the first few rungs of a rickety ladder. Hon Treas, Sylvia Starshine, then completed the ascent in order to place our tribute between the Guv’nor’s feet, a feat accomplished by the deft deployment of Gerald Hill’s British umbrella and Mike Ostler’s Chinese pick-up tool.

In the warmth of the CAA our Chair Frances Hughes reminded us that HI himself often had to endure freezing and uncomfortable journeys while on tour. After a record number of apologies for absence, Frances ran through the year’s activities and events, thanking especially Hilary Phillips for providing the wreath, Michael Kilgarriff for his ongoing work as Hon Sec and Editor of First Knight and The Irvingite, and Sylvia Starshine for keeping us solvent despite Lloyds TSB’s worrying habit of of authorising rogue payments from the Society’s account.

The Hon Sec thanked Gavin Clarke for continuing to provide a spacious room gratis at the NT’s Studio for our committee meetings, Hogbens Dunphy for auditing our books (also gratis), and Glen Hayes for making the CAA available to us. At the 2011 AGM Michael had said he wished to retire after one further year’s service, making ten years in all. In the event no-one has volunteered to take over so he will soldier on for a further year.

Profs Jeffrey Richards & Richard Foulkes
Profs Jeffrey Richards & Richard Foulkes

After a raffle of items donated by Elizabeth Sutter, Richard Foulkes’ Heritage Lecture Lewis Carroll at the Lyceum treated us to a wonderfully interesting analysis of the theatre-going habits and preferences of a mathematics don whose Alice books were to make him immortal. At questions the shadowy subject of Irving’s religious faith was raised, an underresearched aspect of HI’s inner life of which we need to know more.

Prof Foulkes cut the Birthday Cake, bottles were uncorked, and the Society’s customary congeniality reigned for the remainder of a most enjoyable afternoon.



These three commemorative bronze medallions, with other items of Irving memorabilia, have been mo st generously d onated to th e Society by member Elizabeth Sutter. If you wish to purchase one – or more – for your own collection contact the Editor. Guide prices suggested by Spink.

commemorative bronze medallions

1. Front: relief bust of H I facing left. Reverse: HENRY IRVING 1891. Diameter 6cm. Very fine. OIRO £60

2. Front: relief bust of HI facing left enclosed within HENRY IRVING . Reverse: laurel wreath around edge, centre blank . Diameter 4 .5cm. Very fine. OIRO £25

3. Front: relief bust of HI facing left enclosed within HENRY IRVING . Reverse: THE GREATEST ACTOR OF T HE AGE BORN 1838 KNIGHTED BY QUEEN VICTORIA 1895 DIED 1905 LAID TO REST IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY enclosed within FOR NOW HE LIVES IN FAME THOUGH NOT IN LIFE. Diameter 4.5cm. Ex tremely fine. OIRO £40

commemorative bronze medallions

FOR SALE continued

orioOn behalf of Oxfam Ruth Babington is offering this fob-piece for sale. It is smooth., untarnished, copper-coloured and measuress ¾ inch in diameter. If you are interested contact Ms Babington on

OIRO £30




An email received last December from BBCtv’s University Challenge production office made the following p lea: ‘I am working on an Actors Who Have Played Hamlet picture round and would like to include an image of the infamous actor Henry Irving…’ We can only imagine HI’s sardonic snort at being described as ‘infamous’.



Since no-one has emerged to take over from me as Hon Secretary I shall stay in office for the time being. It has been suggested that a Social Secretary might be appointed to organise events and outings on an ad hoc basis. If this appeals contact me for a chat. MK.



American member Dawn Kellogg has discovered a hitherto unexplored collection of Irvingiana at the University of Rochester, New York. Her last email  promises many mouth-watering delights: ‘What I have found so far were hundreds of letters of application for tickets to HI’s interment at Westminster Abbey. There  was a genera l national (and international) outpouring of grief with people from all walks of life and every connection – from people who grew up in the same village as HI, to fans to former actors and lots of Americans – the man was a rock star and everyone wanted to share in this momentous occasion.

Also in the collection…are logistical papers from the company’s tours in the UK and in the US – bills of lading, insurance papers, passenger lists, etc. I particularly loved the letters from the head of GWR to Stoker offering to a rrange a luncheon for the actors in a private car of the train in order t o make their journey more comfortable. How things have changed. Another letter is from a dissatisfied patron who hated the previous evening’s performa nce and asked for hismoney back as well as his cab fare. (How things have not changed!)’



Officers No nominations having been received the current officers were elected unopposed: Frances Hughes (Chair), Alex Bisset (Vice-Chair), Michael Kilgarriff (Hon Sec), Sylvia Starshine (Hon Treas).

Committee No nominations having been received the current members were elected unopposed: Michael Gaunt, Mike Ostler, Hilary Phillips, Hal Sinden, Nicholas Smith.



Sunday, 5 April
Bram Stoker Centenary Celebration,  Stratford-upon-Avon
Speakers include Prof Elizabeth Miller, Dacre Stoker, Michael Kilgarriff.
Details t.b.a.

Saturday, 28 April
Coach trip leaving from the Old Vic at 9.15am, stopping at Rye for luncheon, then on to Tower Cottage, Ellen Terry’s home in Winchelsea, and a conducted tour of the local Museum by Major John Freeman M BE.
Cost depends on take- up but is unlikely to be more than £25. Details t.b.a.



8 September, 2011

‘September 10 sees the anniversary of Britain’s first reported incident of motorised drunk driving. O n that day in 1897, George Smith of Portnall Road, London W9, drove his electric cab onto the pavement and crashed into the Bond Street home of actor Sir Henry Irving. Smith, aged 25, was found to be drunk and fined one pound at Marlborough Street Po lice Court.’ Submitted by Peter Berkeley



…there’s a happy Hon Treas. Next time you update your Will please bear in mind your favourite Society. Every little legacy helps


All Communications to:

Mchael Kilgarriff
Editor & Hon Secretary
The Irving Society
10 Kings Avenue, London W5 2SH
Tel & fax: 020 8566 8301

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.