Industry: People [A-L]


Businessman and partner/secretary/treasurer of Harry Clay’s Bridge Theatre Company.

Archibald Robert Abbott’s association with Harry Clay went back as far as 1900, when both men were engaged by Walter Bell for his Waxworks and Vaudeville Company. The following year he went through New South Wales and Queensland with Clay’s first touring company. Abbott later became a partner in the Bridge Theatre Company in 1913 and stayed on as Secretary after the entrepreneur’s death in 1925.



(1864-1917) Theatrical secretary, associate director, advance agent, manager, business manager, showman, journalist. [Born: William Jordan]

Ashton, Harold [OA 28 Apr 1917, 13]Harold Ashton started his career a journalist with Adelaide’s Register newspaper. He reportedly turned to the theatrical profession in 1886 when J.C. Williamson offered him the position of secretary. A few years later he struck out on his own, initially as advance agent. His three to four years with Hugo’s Buffalo Minstrels provided him with the skills and reputation to go into management and promotion on his own which he did until eventually returning to the Williamson fold. He made many overseas visits for the Firm looking for theatrical imports, and spent time in South Africa as its General Manager. At the time of his death Ashton held the position of Associate Director.

1: The sixth son, and one of nine children born to Melbourne alderman, John Jordan, Ashton died on 21 April 1917 at his home in St Kilda Road, Melbourne after a lengthy illness. His death was reported widely with the Australasian region.
2: Ashton’s career as an independent showman involved many facets of theatrical entertainment, including minstrelsy. In the early 1890s, for example, he toured his own company Ashton’s Federal Minstrels. and acted as manager for Wills’ Surprise Party. His association with Williamson’s is reported as being 17 years all up.



Musician, music teacher, songwriter.

Known to have been active in Melbourne during the late 1860s/1870s, Henry Benjamin’s teaching advertisements appear in the Argus as early as May 1868. The following year J.A. Herman (Weston and Hussey’s Minstrels) had a hit with his song “Wilt Thou Be Mine.” Benjamin’s profile was raised in 1870 when another local teacher was charged with attempting to incite him into a duel (the case was later dismissed) and again in 1872 when he sued Harry Rickards for breach of contract over the song “Doing the Block” (Benjamin was awarded the verdict). His song “The Knight’s Return” was also a hit for Thomas Rainford in 1871.

1: As a musician/teacher Benjamin specialised in piano, harmonium and concertina. Described as a “novelty song,” “Doing the Block” was written to lyrics by Marcus Clarke.
2: Benjamin’s movements after 1872 are yet to be established. It is unclear, for example, if his the same person identified as a “well-known local musician” in Dunedin (New Zealand) in 1889.



(1872-1924) Tour manager/theatre manager/advance rep.

Largely associated with Harry Clay between 1901 and 1924, Boyle was initially employed as a New South Wales/Queensland advance rep and tour manager. He also operated a business in Brisbane around 1915, and worked briefly for Fullers’ Theatres. As a venue manager he looked after Clay’s interests at the Coliseum (North Sydney), Eden Gardens (Manly) and the Bridge Theatre (Newtown).



(1877-1937) Journalist, editor, publisher.

One of Australia’s most respected and influential journalists and editor/publishers working in the  area of vaudeville and film, Martin Brennan  is largely remembered as the founder of Australian Variety (1913-1920) and Film Weekly (1926-1973). He was also the editor of Everyone’s: The Motion Picture Authority between 1920 and 1926, and a long-time representative for several prominent American and British entertainment periodicals – notable Variety and Billboard (USA) and Encore, Era and Performer (Britain).



(1866-1929) Tour  manager, advance  representative.

Jack Campbell was one of the best-known advance reps working in Australia during the early decades of the twentieth century. The entertainment organisations he was associated with, either in this position or as manager, included the Fitzgerald Brothers’ Circus, Harmston’s Circus, James Brennan, the Coleman-Taylor Pantomime Company and Harry Clay.



Projectionist-operator, circuit manager, house manager.

Les Cannis was employed by Harry Clay between ca. 1912 and 1925, initially as a projectionist and then as a front of house manager at the entrepreneur’s Sydney headquarters, the Bridge Theatre at Newtown, and for his southern New South Wales circuit.



Variety industry unionist, stage mechanist.

A leading figure in the establishment of the Australian Theatrical Amusements and Employees’ Association (T.A.E.A.) in 1910, N.H. Connolly was its federal president throughout most of that decade. His career in the variety industry is thought to have begun around the turn of the century, and for more than a decade was associated with J.C. Bain in various positions (including mechanist). He moved away from the industry in the late 1920s to become involved with the United Licensed Victuallers’ Association.



A Tivoli employee for more than 20 years, beginning with Harry Rickards in 1902 and continuing with the Hugh D. Macintosh Tivoli circuit from 1912, Percy Crawford was treasurer of Adelaide’s first Tivoli Theatre [see White’s Theatre]. He also travelled through New Zealand with various Rickards’ companies up until the entrepreneur’s death in 1911. After McIntosh transferred him to Melbourne, Crawford played a significant role in the company’s move towards revue and musical comedy and was closely associated with Harry G. Musgrove‘s First National Films venture in the early 1920s.

Image source: Everyone’s (Sydney) 18 Apr. 1923, 3.



Valentine Day is the name (or pseudonym) of the writer whose columns and feature articles appeared in several Sydney-based newspapers during the first two decades of the twentieth century. First identified with The Newsletter in 1900, for which he wrote the “In Front and Behind” column, he later worked for Freeman’s Journal (ca. 1915) and from ca. 1917 contributed reviews, insights and memories of Australian theatre (both legitimate and variety) to the Referee and the Saturday edition of The Arrow (which incorporated the Saturday Referee). His columns included: “Reminiscences of the Stage” (Referee), and “Personal: Pars Pleasant Pungent and Pithy” (aka “Topical Pars Personal: Pleasant, Pithy and Pungent”) and “At Sydney Shows.”



Advance agent, tour and threatre manager (variety, drama and film).

Although first been identified with Kate Howarde‘s Dramatic Company in 1900, Charles Devereaux’s name disappears from newspaper coverage until 1905. Parke’s Western Champion newspaper records in 1906, however, that he was “well-known to most Parkesians” (8 June 1906, 12), suggesting a theatrical involvement in the region during that period. He was later an advance rep for Percy Verto, Lilian Meyers, and the International Circus, and toured his own company and athlete Henry J. Lawson among other ventures. Devereaux became involved in film exhibition (1910-ca. 1918), initially managing theatres and showing films in Sydney, Brisbane and the Northern Rivers (New South Wales) for Cousens Spencer before managing several independent regional picture houses in regional New South Wales and Queensland.

1: The initials “S,” “C,” and “T,” have been applied to Devereaux’s name various newspapers between 1900 and 1918.
2: During his time in the New South Wales Northern Rivers Devereaux reportedly established a circuit of picture houses with Lismore-based businessman Frank Molloy. His career post and movements post-1919 are yet to be determined.
3: Devereaux’s birth name may have been Charles Lionel Powles. The death notice for a man by that name in Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin (5 July 1954, 4) records that he was known as Charles Devereaux. The same gentleman’s divorce proceedings in Sydney in late-1917/early 1918 also identify Charles Lionel Powles and Mary Elizabeth Powles as being known as Devereaux (see for example Sydney Morning Herald 8 Dec. 1917, 9). The couple had married in Redfern in 1900.



Tour and theatre manager/performer.

Associated with Edward Branscombe for 14 years, William Edgeley later moved into the film industry. After initially finding work as a venue manager he turned to marketing in the early 1920s.



(1856-1940) Theatrical manager, tour manager, advance rep. [Born John Zerbone Fanning]

One of Australia’s best-known theatrical managers of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, Jack Fanning started out in Melbourne in 1872 as a ticket taker. He had his first taste of management in 1877 touring a show called Darcy Reid’s Ghost, and two years later returned to New Zealand to work with various dramatic and pantomime companies. Back in Australia in 1881 he became advance rep for Hugos’ Buffalo Minstrels, and later secured similar employment with F.M. Clark (including Clark and Ryman’s Silk Stockings) and the Cogill Brothers. During his career Fanning spent many years on and off with William Anderson, and was also associated at times with many international and high profile Australian practitioners – notably Allan Wilkie, George Titheridge, and Baily and Grant. He continued to work in the industry well into his seventies.

1: Fanning was born a house at the rear of Melbourne’s Royal Princess’s Theatre on 6 November 1856. His parents were both carriers who moved to New Zealand sometime during the late-1850s or early-1860s. At age seven his hip was dislocated when trodden on by a horse which left him with one leg shorter than the other. Fanning, who spent much of his childhood in New Zealand, was educated in Hokitika.
2: The Dracy Reid’s Ghost company included a young Amy Horton.
3: Fanning’s wife, Minnie, died in 1925 from complications that occurred during an operation. She, too, was well-known around Australia having travelled with her husband for many years. Jack Fanning died suddenly in Melbourne on 3 April 1940, age 83 years.
4: Jack Fanning is not believed to have been related to the well-known minstrel and vaudeville family of the same name – which included Charles Fanning and Maud Fanning.
Image: Chronicle (Adelaide) 10 Mar. 1932, 32.



Stage manager.

Edward Gabriel, invariably referred to as “handsome Ted,” was employed by Harry Clay as a stage manager at his Bridge Theatre headquarters in Newtown from as early as 1914. In this respect he was very much a local identity, being associated with the venue until it ceased being associated with Clay’s in 1930.



Singer (baritone), business manager/agent, entrepreneur, venue manager.

In the mid to late-1870s George Clarke Gibbons was an actor/singer and secretary with Melbourne’s Pioneer Dramatic Association. He later handled the business arrangements for touring companies, including D’Orsey Ogden (1878), the Blondenette Lady Minstrels (1879), Baker and Farron (1879), Charles. B. Hicks (1880, Uncle Tom’s Cabin tour), the Mohawk Minstrels, the Comets, and toured with the Nightingale Serenaders [1] and Nightingale Minstrels as a performer (all 1882). He leased Sydney’s Alhambra Music Hall (presenting Gibbon’s Minstrels) and took over the management of the Bondi Aquarium in 1894. His last known theatrical endeavour was a season at Sydney’s Temperance Hall in late-1895 with a revived Nightingale Serenaders [2].

Little is known of Gibbons’ life and career between 1882 and 1894, and again between 1896 and late-1898. He is believed to moved away from theatrical management in 1898, initially purchasing the Parramatta Sale Yards, and the following year starting up his own business as an “Auctioneer, Estate and General Commission Agent.”



(1856-1924) American herbalist, lecturer, advance agent, theatrical manager/proprietor [Born in New York City]

George Washington Gibson came to the Australian colonies in 1875 and initially found opportunities in Sydney as a theatrical agent and manager. By 1882 he was known as Prof. G.W. Gibson, medical herbalist. He conducted his business in several locations in Sydney up until 1886. From around 1884 onwards he is linked to Bella Sutherland as her advance agent, business manager, and husband. The couple is believed to have made Brisbane their base from 1887 and settled there permanently from ca. 1904. In the 1890s he sometimes toured with his wife as a lecturer. Her Vital Sparks company was even briefly known as Prof. Gibson’s Specialty and Musical Company in 1899. Gibson also acted as business manager for his wife’s Tivoli Gardens [3] in Hamilton from 1912. Following her death in 1918, he ran the theatre for several years with assistance from former entertainer and local resident Eva Lee (aka Eva Williams).

1: Sometimes referred to as a botanic physician, Gibson opened his first Brisbane practice in Fortitude Valley in early 1887. He continued to operate his own herbal practice up until his death.
Image source: Queensland Figaro and Punch (Brisbane) 7 May 1887, 12.



Goodman, John L [ASA 1901, 33](1845-1925) English-born theatre manager, business manager.

John Goodman immigrated to Australia in 1869, and over the next decade gained business experience in various capacities. He managed Camilla Urago’s tour for Samuel Lazar in 1879 and the School of Arts (Sydney) for John Bennett before accepting the position of business manager for Arthur Garner‘s London Comedy Company season at Sydney’s Theatre Royal in 1880. This in turn led to a three decade-long association with J.C. Williamson. During that period he handled business activities for the Firm (as treasurer) and its various theatres (including Australia’s first picture show), and oversaw operations during Williamson’s absences.

Image source: Australian Stage Annual (1901), 33.



The sons of Mr and Mrs W.H. Goodson, owners of a Rockhampton (Queensland) furniture shop, Harold and Benjamin Goodson later established themselves as prominent local businessmen in their own right. Benjamin also attained national celebrity status when he won the 1899 World Amateur Cycling Championship in Montreal, Canada. He later spent some six to seven years working as a concert and vaudeville singer (largely in Victoria and South Australia) before returning to Rockhampton in January 1909 to help run the family business. The following month the brothers opened Goodson’s Promenade Concert Grounds, presenting moving pictures and live performances through until December. Benjamin remained active in the region as a performer and occasional concert director for several years.

After the brothers took over the family business from their mother in December 1910 Harold Goodson (aka W.H. Goodson) focused his attention on that venture rather than on entertainment activities. When Benjamin later moved to Sydney the business continued to be known as Goodson Brothers, although essentially owned and operated by Harold (in conjunction with his two sons).


(1868-1950) General manager, treasurer, tour manager, producer, businessman, entrepreneur, industry activist.

Julius Grant began his career in Australian theatre in Melbourne at 21 as an office boy and ticket seller at the Theatre Royal under George Tallis. He later worked for George Coppin‘s Australian Management Company and George Rignold before joining William Anderson‘s company in 1900. At various times he was treasurer, tour manager and general manager, and in 1907 reportedly helped secure the location for the King’s Theatre which opened under Anderson’s lesseeship the following year. In 1911 Grant became business manager for Bert Bailey and Edmund Duggan and in 1912 co-founded their theatrical firm (later known simply as Bailey and Grant). It garnered much success throughout the 1910s and 1920s – notably with On Our Selection, Grandad Rudd and four pantomimes (between 1917 and 1920). Bailey and Grant remained business partners up until the latter’s death in Melbourne on 27 July 1950. His estate, which he left to his brothers and sisters was worth more than £51,000.

NB: The four Bailey and Grant pantomimes, staged in association with J. and N. Tait, were: Aladdin (1917), Jack and Jill (1918), Mother Hubbard (1919), and Sinbad the Sailor (1920).
Image source: Critic (Adelaide) 19 Nov. 1913, 5.



(1847-1908) Businessman, film exhibition pioneer, company founder, political activist (Temperance movement), Justice of the Peace [Born Alexander Herbert Gunn]

Alex Gunn first became involved in entertainment in Victoria through his association with the Rechibite Order, initially putting on instructive shows for younger members of the Temperance movement in the late-1880s. By the early-1890s he was combining live entertainment and lantern exhibitions for the wider public, with these shows continuing to involve live performance (notably illustrated songs and sometimes brass bands). Following the arrival of moving pictures in various parts of Australia during the years 1895 and 1896, Gunn incorporated the new medium into his shows, along with any other new entertainment technologies they could acquire. After he passed away, the business continued under the management of his son.

1: Alec Gunn’s pre-entertainment industry career was as an agent for the Australasian Temperance and General Mutual Life Assurance Society. His involvement with the Melbourne Rechibite Order saw him serve as Superintendent of the Juvenile tent. He was also actively involved in various organisational aspects of Melbourne’s Temperance Hall for many years. Alex Gunn was not related to British theatrical producer John Gunn (ca. 1869-1909), who was active in Australia with Clyde Meynell (Meynell and Gunn), and later with Rupert Clarke (Clarke, Meynell and Gunn).
2: The lantern exhibitions presented by the Gunns involved slides thrown on to screens (or sheets) via a limelight machine. The slides ranged in topics – including Temperance-related themes and prominent landscape scenes from around the world and Australia.
3: As a film exhibition pioneer Gunn was the first to show films at the Melbourne Town Hall (1899) and the Melbourne Exhibition Building, as well as the first to show moving pictures in a Victorian place of worship (the Wesley Church). He and his sons also reportedly gave the first open-air picture show in Victoria (at Geelong), and continued this form of entertainment for many years. They also operated some of the first moving pictures in Ballarat and Bendigo, and gave concerts in many of Melbourne’s suburban cricket grounds.
Image: Alexander Herbert Gunn (Snr). Source: Everyone’s (Sydney) 15 Dec. 1926, 126.



(ca. 1894-1935) Actor, singer (baritone), radio producer, studio manager. [Born George Laurence Halbert Hollingworth in England]

Well-known in Britain as an actor, theatrical manager and radio performer (with 3LO, London) before coming to Australia in mid-1925, Laurence Halbert settled in Sydney where he initially sang with the Tivoli, Fullers and J.C. Williamson’s firms and on radio. In 1926 he secured a contract with 2FC that saw him move primarily into radio production and management. Largely associated with light entertainment during his early years with the station, Halbert was the first producer to broadcast a radio revue in Australia (with Radio Revels in 1927). He also regularly appeared with the “wireless entertainers” as a singer. By the 1930s, however, he had established himself as a pioneering producer of radio drama, first with the Little Theatre and later with the A.B.C. Dramatic Players.

1: Halbert’s father was chemical and botanical scientist J.L.P. Hollingworth of Finchley, England.
2: His Australian radio career was exclusively associated with 2FC. He began with the station when it was owned by Farmer and Co and remained when it was taken over by the Australian Broadcasting Company in 1928 and the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) in 1932. Described as a man of wide culture, Halbert was also said to possess “the perfect voice” for radio announcing (“Late L. Halbert.” Sun 4 June 1935, 7).
3: Halbert died at his home in Springwood on 4 June 1935, aged 41. He was survived by his Australian wife, Esther (nee Bang) formerly of Kirribilli and two young daughters.
Image source: Sydney Mail 29 July 1931, 16.



Doorman, usher, Randwick Racecourse gatekeeper, house manager, singer.

Employed for over 37 years at Randwick as a gate-keeper Dick Heaney was also associated with the variety industry, beginning possibly with James Brennan at the National Amphitheatre, Sydney. Heaney was also linked to Harry Clay and his vaudeville operations for many years.



aka Madame du Barry

(1881-) Costume and fashion designer, wardrobe mistress, business proprietor [Born: Bertha Giles]

Bertha Giles started her working life as a dressmaker and following the end of her four-year old marriage to joiner Seth Hillyard in 1911 (the couple had one child, Phyllis), she moved to London becoming wardrobe mistress at the Haymarket and Pavilion theatres. Hillyard moved to Australia in 1923 with her daughter and soon afterwards (as Madame du Barry) established a costumier business in Sydney’s King’s Cross. She married actor Lane Vane (brother of Jim Gerald) in 1928, but when the relationship ended (ca. 1930) she followed her daughter to the USA, setting up a fashion design business in Hollywood that same year.

Details for this entry sourced from research undertaken by Robert Colomb.



Perth-based theatre manager, business partner.

Connected with the Shaftesbury-Luxor-Tivoli theatre for some 40 years, Andy Hosking’s involvement with Perth’s entertainment sector began as a child employee at the city’s annual Easter Fairs during the 1890s. He later made a name for himself as a rover for the West Perth and Subicao Australian Rules football teams. Although his primary career was with Perth’s Gas and Electric Department, Hosking’s friendship with hotelier Tom Shafto (for whom the Shaftesbury was built), saw him involved with the theatre as a silent partner from before its construction in 1911. He also managed it during the 1910s and early 1920s. Hosking’s other theatrical associations included the Olympia and His Majesty’s theatres among others.

Hosking’s daughter, Elsie, became a well-known vaudeville, revue and radio entertainer.



(ca. 1856-1897) William Jinkins’ has been first identified as business manager for Emerson’s Minstrels during its 1885 Australian tour, and is recorded as later being associated with Williamson, Garner and Musgrove during the same decade. In 1889 he managed the Swiss Mountain Singers’ (aka Jungfrau Kapelle) Australian tour. Jinkins gained much experience throughout the colonies, as well as in China, India and Japan, and at some stage in the 1890s worked with both the Macmahon Brothers and George Darrell. He joined Harry Rickards‘ company in 1895, and was his manager in Western Australia up until his untimely death from pneumonia in June 1897.



Variety theatre critic.

M.A. Keup was Just It magazine’s variety theatre critic during the mid to late-1920s (presenting his reviews under the banner “Vaudeville”). He also provided the magazine with additional industry-related information and gossip.



Journalist, editor, theatre critic, manager.

The founding editor of Australian Variety and Show World magazine, Harry Kitching established a high-profile career during the heyday of Australian variety entertainment as a vaudeville critic. In 1917, he married soprano Amy Rochelle, and took over the management of her career. Following the demise of Harry Clay‘s organisation in the late-1920s, Kitching and Rochelle leased on the Bridge Theatre (Newtown), presenting revues there under the direction of both his wife and his business partner, Stan Foley. In 1930 and 1931 the George Wallace Revue Company played seasons in Adelaide, Sydney (Bridge Theatre), Western Australia and Newcastle under Kitching’s direction.



Advance rep, manager.

Frank Levy was employed as an advance rep and tour manager for a diverse range of companies during the late 19th and early 20th centuries – including Wirth’s Circus, Dan Barry, John F. Sheridan, Charles Holloway, Kate Howarde, Charles Taylor and Ella Carrington, and Clarke and Meynell. In the 1910s and 1920s he was associated in various capacities with Allen Doone, Taylor and Coleman, and Odiva (and her seals) among numerous other firms and acts. Levy continued to be involved in the industry until at least 1926.



(ca. 1854-1924) Singer (baritone), actor, theatre lessee, manager, advance agent (stage/film), entrepreneur.

The owner of Australia’s last internationally-touring Lilliputian company, Melbourne-born Thomas John Liddiard initially pursued a similar career to his famous sister, opera singer Fannie Liddiard. Possibly starting out as early as the late-1870s he later toured with J.C. Williamson’s Comic Opera Company, and found acclaim in Gilbert and Sullivan productions. After moving to India in the late-1880s he was associated with the Stanley Opera Company and later worked throughout the East as advance agent for D.H.R. Mores’ Ripograph film exhibition venture, and with his own Bijou Entertainers and Bijou Troubadours companies. Liddiard returned to Australia in 1904, leasing a theatre in Melbourne, before founding his Lilliputians in 1907 for a tour of the East. He bought the troupe back to Australia (1910-1912) and soon afterwards retired.

  • More details (research notes – incl. Liddiard’s Lilliputians)



Publisher, theatrical agent, manager, theatre lessee, art union promoter.

John Liddy’s name has first been connected with entertainment industry in 1874 when he acted as ticket seller for a minstrel show in Darwin. In 1876, having established himself as a Melbourne theatrical agent and art union promoter, he began publishing the Lorgnette playbill and during the 1880s he acted as business and/or  tour manager for various troupes around Australia. He died in Brisbane on New Year’s Day 1891, having moved there some time previously to manage and lease several theatres, notably the Gaiety [see Albert Hall].


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Published on March 11, 2011 at 9:32 pm  Comments Off on Industry: People [A-L]