Archive for the ‘Newcastle-upon-Tyne’ Category

Howard Brothers at Newcastle Empire

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant of 27 February 1909 describes a performance by the Howard Brothers at Newcastle Empire:

Howard Brothers at Newcastle Empire article from Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant 27 February 1909 - From Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

In the 1996 Andrew Conway posted an extract from Variety Magazine of 23 December 1911 in this rec.juggling post. It describes the routine beautifully:


There are many players of banjo touring the vaudeville circuits, and banjo playing acts must posess exceptional features in order to be classed among the Novelties. The exacting demands of modern vaudeville fall most heavily
upon acts of this sort. The Howard Brothers are far in advance of all other exponents of this form of entertainment, and the musical possibilities of the banjo have never been shown to greater advantage than by these young men who play classical and popular airs, and give pleasing imitations, and cap their performance by juggling the banjos like Indian clubs between them, and at the same time playing popular airs with wonderful precision and real art.

Andrew adds “The illustration shows the two brothers standing back to back and passing
eight banjos. Now that’s what I call entertainment…”

The Juggling McBanns at the Pavillion Theatre, Newcastle

Friday, April 8th, 2011

The Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant of 6 Feb 1909 gives a longer than usual description of a juggling routine when The Juggling McBanns appear:

The Juggling McBanns at the Pavillion, Newcastle Weekly Journal & Courant Article 6 Feb 1909 - From Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

They “gave an exhibition of club swinging in which they showed themselves to be highly proficient, and the variety and dexterity of their manoeuvres in this line were apparently very highly appreciated, as they concluded their performance amid a very hearty round of applause”.

The Juggler’s Bulletin of May 1946 gives a little biography and history: “The McBann name is a contraction of the two names – Pat McGreevey and Tommy Bannahan. They were the original McBanns and afterward Pat put his brother Henry in the act and the act really made a big name for itself. They were known as the fastest double act of their time (1908 – 1912). When Pat died in Lucerne, Switzerland, Henry continued the act with Jerry Buckley. Pat McBann was the first juggler to attempt six clubs. I’ve been told he juggled four in one hand and two in the other but he passed away before he could get it perfected to put on the stage.”

There are a couple of sources that show Pat and Tommy performing together before Henry joined in 1908. The New York Times article from 16 July 1905 mentions them as performing at as far back of 1904 at Hammerstein’s Roof Garden alongside, amongst others, legendary trick-roper Will Rogers. That must have been early in the partnership as Franciso Alverez’s book, Juggling – its history and greatest performers says “McBann and his twin brother had played Hammerstein’s Victoria in 1904 in the well-known act, the Juggling Johnsons.” It adds “Pat McBann was an outstanding club juggler during the first part of the century…Some old-timers used to say that Pat could juggle four clubs in one hand. Harry Lind, who had seen this trick, had this to say, “Pat kept the four clubs going with an underthrow, all the time turning his body to the left as he made the passes.” Many believe that, while Cinquevalli may have been more spectacular, McBann was the better juggler. Pat’s sudden death came as he was performing on the stage of Berlin’s Wintergarten. He is said to be buried in the Alps in Switzerland.”

The act was still going strong in 1912 (whether this was Pat and Henry or Henry and Jerry Buckley isn’t clear), by which time they had added  hat throwing and electrical illusions to the club swinging as you can see from this advertisement for their performance at the Theatre Royal in the Brisbane Courier from 24 April 1912.

Derenda and Green at Newcastle Empire

Friday, October 29th, 2010

The Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant described the “amusing and clever juggling act of Derenda and Green” on 31 July 1909:

Derenda and Green Article Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant 31 July 1909 - From Newcastle Central Library

From Newcastle Central Library

It’s not a fascinating article by any means – but after a bit of searching I realised that just 6 months later these two young performers would be tragically dead.  This site about the wreck of the General Chanzy as she sailed from Marseille to Algiers on 10 February 1910 tells the story in Spanish – click here to read the google translation. 139 out of the 140 passengers and crew were killed when she sank, including eleven performers who were travelling to perform at Algiers casino; the others are listed in the third column of this page from New York’s Sun newspaper from 13 February 1910.

The biographies of Leo Derenda and the mysteriously named Mr Green from the General Chanzy site give some intersting detail about their histories and the act – they’re well worth a read.

Edit: Thanks to The Void for the correction to the Mr Green link

Emerson and Baldwin

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Emerson and Baldwin appeared at the Pavilion Theatre in Newcastle in 1909 as this article from the Newcastle Weekly Journal & Courant, 30 January 1909 shows:

Emerson and Baldwin Article for the Newcastle Weekly Journal & Courant, 30 January 1909

From Newcastle City Library

Not only are they considered “clever comedians” but they performed “some wonderfully smart and unique juggling feats”.

There’s some good biography of Eddie Emerson with some description of his act and relationship with Jerry Baldwin in this miracle factory article. It’s not explicit, but it appears that they’re Americans – so their appearances in North East England are obviously part of trips abroad.

It seems that they were no strangers to travel – while there are internet resources that show them in the USA in New York in 1907 (The Evening Telegram article, 16 February 1907), 1912 (New York Times article, 29 December 1912) and 1913 (New York Times, 8 April 1913), they also show up in Perth, Australia in 1912 as this article in The Western Australian from 12 April shows.

After all of that they were back in the UK, at Sunderland Empire on  21 July 1913:

Emerson and Baldwin at Sunderland Empire Poster, 21 July 1913

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

Emeline Ethardo at Newcastle Empire

Friday, August 20th, 2010

 Readers of rec.juggling may recognise today’s material – it’s the very first stuff that I found when I started looking for  material about the history of  juggling in the North East. This advertisement appeared in the 27 July 1895 edition of the Gateshead Guardian: 

Emeline Ethardo advert - Gateshead Guardian, July 27 1895

Gateshead Guardian, July 27 1895

Emeline Ethardo, “A distinct Novelty, A Juggler, a Contortionist, a Dancer, an Acrobat, an Instrumentalist. Something new” was on the bill at the Newcastle Empire Theatre for the week of 29 July 1893. Also of note on the bill is the second appearance on this blog of Conway and Leland, “One-legged Acrobats” who also appeared with WC Fields in Sunderland in 1908, billed as “Cheerful Monopedes”! 

Emeline is listed in Michale Kilgariff’s book ‘Grace, Beauty and Banjos: Peculiar Lives and Strange Times of Music Hall and Variety Artistes’ as a juggler, which suggests a link with Signor Ethardo – the Spiral Ascensionist (he used a walking globe and climbed enormous spiral tracks) – although he was possibly as a mentor or trainer rather than a relative.  The excellent  also has her listed as appearing at the opening of the Metropolitan Theatre, Paddington, London in 1897. 

But the only information we have about the performance comes from the review from the Gateshead Guardian in the week following the advert above. On 3 August 1895 they say: 

The Empire, Newcastle
There has been this week an excellent company at the Empire, and full houses. The chief attraction is Mr Edwin Boyd, the favourite London comedian, whose songs were rendered in a very talking manner, and were received with the greatest enthusiasm, especially his song “Life in the East End of London”. Miss Emmeline Ethardo pleased the audience immensely with her clever displays of juggling and contortion feats. Conway & Leland, the one legged acrobats, met with a great reception with their clever tumbling, etc. The Albert & Edmund troupe provide a highly amusing sketch, “The Locket”. The other artistes were Edith Yorke, vocalist; the Waldrons (Joe and Etty), burlesque artistes and dancers; Lily Langtree, comedienne; the Fairy Four, vocalists and dancers; and Arthur F. Cecil, mimic; all of whom gained the cordial approval of the audience. 

The Zanettos and the Korosko Bale Sisters

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Firstly – my apologies for missing a post last time, hopefully this double dose will make up for it!

The Zanettos, “World-renowned jugglers and equilibrists” are advertised to appear at the Newcastle Empire on the front cover of the Gateshead Guardian of 31 August 1895:

The Zanettos at Newcastle Empire 31 August 1895 - Gateshead Guardian Advert

From Gateshead Central Library

As you can see from their review a week later (published on 7 September 1895) there’s scant information apart from describing their routine as “clever”, and misspelling their name:

The Zanettos at Newcastle Empire 7 Sept 1895 - Gateshead Guardian article

From Gateshead Central Library

However, a bit of Googling has revealed a real treat. is a treasure trove of information about the Bale family who were the core of the Zanettos. The Posters, Press and Programmes page has some great material that fans of this site will enjoy, but for me the best stuff is on – which includes an interview with Edwin Bale published while he was performing in Newcastle.

The interview describes how the performers came to impersonate Japanese jugglers (with some language that’s probably most kindly described as “of its time”) which leads me onto the second half of this weeks double-header. At the Gaiety Theatre of Varieties in Hartlepool, for the week of 11 August 1902 the Sisters Korosko Bale, “Double Japanese Jugglers, Balancers &c” appeared, along with their “splendid performing pigeons”:

Sisters Korosoko Bale Poster

From Tyne & Wear Archives

The name Bale associated with ‘Japanese’ juggling must mean that they’re linked to the Zanettos, but I’ve not been able to confirm the exact nature of the connection. However I did find the abstract for a academic conference presentation that refers to the Zanettos and the Korosko Bale troupe, and has some more pictures of the Zanettos. Scroll right down to the bottom of the page to find a link to the presentation slides.

I hope you enjoy all that linked material as much as I did.

The Frank L Gregory Troupe at the Sunderland Empire

Friday, June 25th, 2010

The Frank L Gregory Troupe appeared at the Sunderland Empire for the week of 21 September 1906 “in a marvellous exhibition of hoop rolling and juggling” where there are “hoops made to act like human beings”:

Frank L Gregory Troupe Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

This article from the Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant, published on 23 January 1909 mentions the troupe a few months later when they appeared at the Pavilion Theatre, Newcastle:

Frank L Gregory Troupe Article in Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant Jan 23 1909 - From Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

Unfortunately the journalist is reduced to the stock description of “novel and clever” with no details of the routine. However we do know that they were still working in 1914 as this article in the New York Times on 29 December 1914 mention them as the “Marvellous Gregory Troupe, hoop rollers and jugglers” performing at Keith Alhambra Theatre.

There is some more information looking back on the heyday of hoop performers in this article from the Juggler’s Bulletin on September 1947 – scroll down to the “Out of my Scrapbook” column by Jack Greene. He describes how Frank Gregory “tossed a hoop in the air and made it light on a string held by his partner several feet away from him, then roll back to the tosser”.

Salerno at Newcastle Empire

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Salerno was one of the originators of the “gentleman juggler” style where the performer dressed in evening wear and juggled the everyday articles that you might find in a home of the day.

He appeared at the Empire Theatre, Newcastle in the week of 30 September 1895 – as this advertisement from the Gateshead Guardian shows:

Gateshead Guardian, 28 Sept 1895

Gateshead Guardian, 28 Sept 1895

“The great continental juggler and equilibrist” is mentioned briefly a week later in the Gateshead Guardian and Newcastle Suburban Press – but there’s hardly a surfeit of detail about “the clever company”:

Gateshead Guardian and Newcastle Suburban Press, October 5 1895

Gateshead Guardian and Newcastle Suburban Press, October 5 1895

That’s all the local material that I’ve found – but there were two good articles about Salerno in JUGGLE magazine in the Spring and Fall 2009 editions (I’m agnostic about IJA politics, but I like the magazine). The article in the Fall edition concentrates on a prop that’s very rare these days: Alan Howard (in wonderfully florid prose that would fit into most of the publications I normally read for this blog) writes: “The Salerno ring balance involves a pole that is placed on the juggler’s forehead; atop the pole is a ring in which a billiard ball is coaxed to revolve, thanks to the impetus generated by the continuous up-and-down motion from the juggler’s knees”. He juggled four balls with this all in place, including a shower where the balls passed through the ring.

Salerno’s nearest rival in the gentleman juggling style was Kara, a German citizen who was caught in Paris at the outbreak of the first world war. He was interred for the duration and had no access to props or practice space but on his release Salerno offered to share his equipment so Kara could get back on his feet. Kara learnt the Salerno ring, and later mentored Bob Artur, who performed as Caral, and the routine passed to him. Caral in turn handed the routine onto Jeton, who is still performing it today. These four are the only known performers of this intriguing prop. The full article from JUGGLE is on Jeton’s website.

Frank Sylvo

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

I’ve not been researching for this blog for very long but one name keeps popping up. Frank Sylvo isn’t well known today, but he was clearly well respected by the promoters of his era.The earliest appearance that I’ve found isn’t from North East England but the Palace, Greenwich, London – strangely enough the article is in the New York Clipper and the date isn’t made clear, but it seems to be April 1901 or 1902. He also appeared in Empire Palace Theatre, Dublin in 1904, as advertised in the Evening Telegraph; and at the opening of the Grand Theatre of Varieties, Birmingham and is listed on the special silk commemorative programme for this event, which is held in the Victoria and Albert museum.

I’ve first found him in the North East on 25 January 1909 at the Sunderland Empire:

Frank Sylvo at the Sunderland Empire Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archive

From the Tyne & Wear Archive

All these venues have one thing in common – they were all owned by Moss Empires. This was the largest chain of variety theatres in the UK, and they clearly liked what Frank had to offer, despite the rather lukewarm review that he received in the Newcastle Journal and Courant of 23 January 1909 after he’d appeared at the Newcastle Empire. All they could manage to say was that he was “quite acceptable”:

Frank Sylvo at the Newcastle Empire review - From Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

Despite that faint praise he was still working in the Empires empire 14 years later; he was back at the Sunderland Empire on 2 July 1923:

Frank Sylvo at the Sunderland Empire Poster 1923 - From the Tyne & Wear Archive

From the Tyne & Wear Archive

I look forward to seeing where else he shows up!

Tom Hearn and Paul’s Juggling Girls

Friday, March 26th, 2010

The week of Monday October 11 1909 was a good one for the audiences at the Sunderland Empire as they were treated to two juggling acts on the programme that week:   

Tom Hearn & Paul's Juggling Girls at the Sunderland Empire Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archive

From the Tyne & Wear Archive

Paul’s Juggling Girls present “The Swells at Practice”, which is  “A dainty juggling act, introducing a wonderful exhibition of club manipulation, with original effects”. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find any description of their routine, but they travelled as far as New York with their performances; the New York Times records them arriving in New York to perform on the Morris Vaudeville Circuit on 30 January 1910 (see the pdf article, linked from this page at the New York Times. We can assume that their first performance was at the American Music Hall, as this pdf article, also dated 30 January (linked from this page at the New York Times) mentions them performing in that venue.   

Tom Hearn & Paul's Juggling Girls at the Sunderland Empire Poster (Detail) - From the Tyne & Wear Archive

From the Tyne & Wear Archive

 I have found more information about Tom Hearn’s act. He’s billed as “the Laziest Juggler on Earth” and this description from the Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant, from earlier in the year, on 6 February 1909 explains why:  

Tom Hearn at the Newcastle Empire - article from the Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant - from Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

Mr Tom Hearn has fairly earned his title of the “laziest juggler on earth”. He is also the funniest. From start to finish of his entertainment he is too lazy to complete any of his tricks. He is discovered in bed as the curtain rises, in a comfortably furnished bedroom. He emerges from bed, and practices in a meek-and-mild manner with little dumb-bells and punching a diminutive ball. Other tricks follow, with lamps and articles of furniture and vertu, all of which get broken owing to Tom’s inborn laziness to properly negotiate his different tricks. He every now and then returns to bed in complete exhaustion. The turn caused roars of laughter, and is better than ever.  

An interesting gimmick for sure – and he had a high billing at the Sunderland Empire so he must have been well received.