Little Ena Dayne, By Colin Charman
Colin Charman writes on his Grandmother Ena Dayne
Real Name : Kathleen Mary Liversedge Pridmore
Family : Great Grandfather was Richard Pridmore who, in 1847, took over the former Savile House in Leicester Square and ran it for a while as a casino. Mother Fanny Liversedge was distant relative of the famous 19th Century actor "The Great Macready".
Left - Little Ena Dayne - Courtesy Colin Charman
Right - A Poster for a Variety performance at the Empire Theatre, Croydon, on the 15th of April 1912 On the Bill were Vesta Tilley, R. H. Douglass, the 4 Comptons, Talberto & Douglas, the 8 College Girls, Jimmy Sheilds, The Bioscope, Jimmy Godden, Spanish Goldinis, and Ena Dayne, Billed here as the new star juvenile comedienne - Courtesy Colin Charman - Click for information on the Croydon Empire and to see the poster enlarged.
Father Tom was once carried across a tightrope on Blondin's back. He seemed to be well known in music hall circles in the early 1900s but we know no more than that.
Ena's Music Hall Career:
When very young it became clear she was a naturally talented singer and pianist (although she never learned to read music).Her father held card evenings with his friends and Kathleen would creep downstairs and refuse to go to bed until she had played and sung for them. One of her father's friends was the well known Theatrical Agent Tom Pacey who suggested Kathleen was talented enough to go on the Music Halls and so the stage name "Little Ena Dayne" was invented.
Right - Poster for Little Ena Dayne at the Hippodrome, Neath for the 24th of June 1912 - Courtesy Colin Charman.
When 9 years old she had a few preliminary engagements at Masonic functions and the like before she was given a try out at a London Hall for a fee of one shilling. This was so successful that she was immediately engaged for a week at the London Hippodrome at a much higher salary. Her father (Tom) acted as her pianist even though, like her, he could not read music. He travelled with her throughout and she took everywhere two canaries and a collection of white rats.
She then enjoyed a very successful period topping the bills at the West End Music Halls mainly the Hippodrome, Pavilion, Oxford, Empire, Coliseum and Tivoli. She was contracted to Oswald Stoll around the end of 1909 or early 1910 and appeared at The Colesium as well as the main suburban London Halls. She began to be in demand outside London topping the bill at various seaside resorts e.g. Clacton in the summer of 1910 where she was described as "The Sensation of the West End Halls last Winter". Billed as "The World's Youngest Comedienne" her act consisted of current comic songs her first hit being the old Billy Williams song "Since Poor Father joined the Territorials".
In Mid 1911 she was given a 7 year contract by Moss Empires. She toured extensively initially as a headline artist and from about 1915 onwards (as she got older) as one of the leading support acts. Her first appearance in Edinburgh was marked by a snowstorm and a welcome message saying Little Ena Dayne visits Edinburgh had been marked out in the snow near Waverly Station or the castle for her - or so the story goes.
At this time she was earning a substantial amount and keeping her family in the grand style since she was not only a Music Hall artist but was also a much sought after Drawing Room Entertainer doing private recitals in much the same way as Albert Chevalier.
Although she may have had the odd music hall date from around 1918 on she virtually stopped working partly due to "maternity leave" for several years from around 1920 to 1924.
A period doing odds and ends such as end of the pier shows with her
first husband (Ambrose Brown -real name Vink -a Dutchman) followed using
the name Bernard and Betty Brown. In the mid 1920s her brother visited
her in Dover and found she and Ambrose
living in a small two room flat with her young daughter Patricia. He
arranged for them to come back to London and they settled in Stratford
Around 1931 she left George Thompson and went back to solo work. Active
mainly in the London area she continued as she had for most of her career
as a popular performer at private functions and small local venues although
she is thought to have appeared in the occasional "music hall memories"
In the late 1930s she formed a group called "The Three Boys and Ena" and her agent from this time on was George Sutton from Sutton. This group lasted three or four years and seemed to have been quite successful and they were getting a lot of well paid engagements. They broke up in 1940 when one member -Charlie Davis- was killed with his wife in an air raid on Kensington on Tuesday 24 September 1940. She then went solo again before retiring in around in 1960 although she only worked spasmodically after 1945.
Right - Variety Programme for the Croydon Hippodrome Theatre of Varieties for the week of 23rd of January 1911 with Little Ena Dayne on the Bill - Courtesy Colin Charman - Click for information on the Theatre and to see more of the programme.
At the end of the war a "Write a Song" contest was organised with the heats and final being broadcast live by the BBC from the Hammersmith Palais using the band of Louis Preager. Ena's lifelong friend Elie Beadell had the words of a song to which Ena had put the music several years before. The song was "Cruising Down the River" which won the competition, largely due to the audience reaction on the night and became a huge hit. Ena broadcast it on at least one occasion. As Ena could not write music her name did not appear on the composer and as result she was not entitled to any royalties,. However for many years Elie passed a share of the royalties on to Ena believing that only fair. Nellie Tollerton (who had appeared at least once on the same music hall bill as Ena) apparently also knew Elie and could read music and wrote down the melody and it was her name that appeared as co writer.
She retired to run the Royal Oak pub in Sandgate Kent around 1958. In the early 1970s she was interviewed by Southern TV who sent two researchers to see her for two days and this was then broadcast as part of a series on local characters but this recording seems to have been lost. However a record of her singing Cruising Down the River exists plus a home made tape of her singing excerpts of her old music hall songs recorded by her brother Edward just before she died.
Above - Variety Programme for the Croydon Hippodrome Theatre of Varieties for the week of 23rd of January 1911 with Little Ena Dayne on the Bill - Courtesy Colin Charman - Click for information on the Theatre and to see more of the programme.
At some time she became acquainted with Freddy Raines ( the father of film star Claude Raines) who for a time lived with Ena's friend Babs Downes. She had Freddy's piano for many years and in the recording of her singing parts of her old music hall songs she is playing this piano. Freddy was partial to reciting "The Green Eye of the Little Yellow Dog" - often over and over again less and less accurately as more alcohol was consumed.
She was killed in a car accident in January 1977.
N.B. Believed that Ena related to boy soprano known as ?? Lough from around late 1920s.
Right - The Cover of a new book on Ena Dayne by Colin Charman. "The
brief shining of a music hall star and the light cast of the Vink, Pridmore
and Charman Families" - Colin Charman writes:- 'The idea behind
the book (apart from the family history bit) is to give an insight into
the lesser lights - once prominent but now forgotten - and how their
lives / career differ from those of the more well known and well documented
Click to buy the Book at Amazon.co.uk.
If you have any more information about Ena or the family for Colin's research please Contact me.
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