Practitioners [A]

Abdy’s Animal Circus to Amusu Duo ……. p.1
Anderson Sisters to Austral Trio [2] ……. p.2



(aka Australian Andersons / Three Ander Girls / Kangaroo Girls)

Acrobatic song and dance act.

Twins Minnie and Lillie Anderson (born in Victoria in 1875) began performing professionally in Perth in the early 1890s. Although largely based in Western Australia during the 1890s, they nevertheless toured the other states, appearing with Bella Sutherland, F.M. Clark, Harry Rickards, York and Jones, Ettie Williams and Jones and Lawrence among others. In 1900 they left Australia, finding success in the UK (including the Moss-Stoll circuit), USA (particularly New York City) and Canada for many years.  Their act also sometimes included Lillie’s daughter, Mygnet (1898-).

Photograph and details contributed by Kerrie Brown and Lyn Huk.



Andrews, Mary [Campbell](1889-1931) Lyric soprano. [Born Mary Helen Scales]

Born in Tallangatta, north-eastern Victoria and raised in Wagga Wagga (New South Wales), Mary Andrews started out singing at local community events and church meetings. After undergoing voice training she took her own troupe through the country districts before securing a contract with Harry Rickards. Under his management she toured the Australian Tivoli circuit during the mid to late-1910s and later sang with J.C. Williamson’s Opera Company. Andrews is believed to have remained with the Firm until about 1923, at which time she moved to the Malay Straits with her mining engineer husband, Ernest Harris. She died in the Seremban European Hospital following a brief illness.

Andrews’ family believe that she may have also performed under the name Muriel Andrews at some stage during her career. This is yet to be confirmed.
The above information and photographs contributed by Sue Campbell (grand-daughter).



Comedian, singer, radio performer, troupe proprietor, manager, producer, entrepreneur.

Archer, Joe [AV 6 Jan 1915, 6]Described as an “eccentric” and “live-wire” comedian, and “loose-legged” dancer during his long career, Joe Archer’s name has first been located in 1906 as an endman in a Dix-Baker show at King’s Hall, Newcastle. This leading position suggests, however, that he had already been active as a performer for several years at least. Prior to his last known engagement, a Melbourne Police Band Concert in 1940, Archer maintained a continuous presence as an entertainer through engagements with numerous firms including the Tivoli and Fullers‘ circuits, Harry Clay, Ike Beck, Frank Reis, J.C. Bain, Ted Holland, and Bella Sutherland. He also operated his own touring companies (and sometimes in partnership with other leading performers).

1: Archer was married to serio Lily Northwood.
2: In addition to his vaudeville career Archer is also known to have appeared in pantomime and comedy drama, including tours with Cole’s Dramatic Players in the late-1920s.
Image source: Australian Variety (Sydney) 6 Jan. 1915, 6.



(ca. 1882-1925) New Zealand-born comedian, singer, song writer, sketch artist.

Tommy Armstrong carved out a 30 year career as an entertainer and songwriter. Best known for his stage partnerships with Nat Phillips, Priscilla Verne, Mabs Howarth and June Rose, he toured the USA (1903-1909) and Great Britain (1916-1923) in addition to his Australian and New Zealand engagements. Considered by his peers to be one of the best comedy/sketch performers ever to originate out of New Zealand, Armstrong was also a gifted songwriter and comedy writer. Although his Australasian touring was primarily undertaken on the Fuller’s vaudeville circuit he has been linked to William Anderson, George Marlow, Holland and St John, Birch and Carroll and Dix-Baker. Armstrong died on 9 March 1925 (possibly from complications arising from pleurisy).

  • More details
  • See also: Armstrong & Howarth [below] • Armstrong & Phillips [below] • Armstrong & Rose [below] • Armstrong & Verne [below] • Mabs Howarth
Armstrong married Mabel Howarth in Adelaide in January 1913.



(1913-ca. 1924) Comedy sketch act.

Armstrong & Howarth -cu [AV 1 Sept 1915 cover]Tom Armstrong and Mabs Howarth married in Adelaide in January 1913 while Howarth was appearing with George Stephenson’s Wanderers. They debuted their act in Perth on 21 April and later toured Australasia, largely for the Fullers, with original musical sketches like “A Foolish Fool” and “Back Bush Flat.” Other engagements included William Anderson‘s 1913 panto-extravaganza The Land of Nod and George Marlow‘s 1916 revue You’re the One. In late-1916 they travelled to Britain under contract to the L.F.N circuit and remained for seven years. Armstrong’s poor health saw them return to Australia in early 1924. His new partnership with June Rose ended in New Zealand in August that same year following his hospitalisation for pleurisy.

Image source: Australian Variety (Sydney) 1 Sept. 1915, front cover.



(ca. 1896-1905) Comedy, song and dance act.

Tommy Armstrong and Nat Phillips teamed up as a double act in the mid-1890s while still in their teens. In a 1915 interview published in Adelaide’s Mail newspaper, Armstrong remembers finishing a stint with Valdares acrobatic turn and that he and Phillips, who had been presenting a straight singing and talking act, decided to form a partnership. Their act comprised a mix of comedic patter, dancing and some acrobatics. The pair toured Australia until late 1903 and then travelled to America. They remained there for some two years before amicably deciding to go in different directions.

Sometime prior to the break-up Phillips invited Daisy Merritt to join him in the US as his new partner. According to Phillips the new act opened the night after he and Armstrong played their final performance together (Theatre Magazine Dec. 1914, 39). Armstrong soon afterwards established an act with Priscilla Verne.



Rose, June [WNS 8 Mar 1924, 6](1924) Comedy sketch act

After returning to Australia from Great Britain in early 1924, reportedly due to ill health, Tom Armstrong established a partnership with soubrette June Rose. Although his former stage partner and wife Mabs Howarth had also come home, she appears to have retired from performing at that time. As with Armstrong’s previous partnerships the act comprised either a feature comedy sketch and/or song, dance and patter routines. After playing Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide the pair toured New Zealand from May until August when Armstrong was hospitalised in Wellington with pleurisy. No further engagements have been found between August and Armstrong’s death in March the following year.

  • See also: Tom Armstrong [above]
The sketches presented by Armstrong and Rose included “Who’s a Fool?” and “Now I’ll Tell One.”
Image: June Rose. Source: World’s News (Sydney) 8 Mar. 1924, 6.



(ca. 1905-1913) Comedy sketch, song and dance act,

Within a year of ending his partnership with Nat Phillips (ca. 1904), Tommy Armstrong joined forces with the much older Priscilla Verne to tour a comedy sketch act throughout the USA and Canada. As Armstrong and Verne they built a solid reputation over the next five years, largely in the US (taking only a brief break to tour Armstrong’s homeland, New Zealand, in 1907). The pair returned to New Zealand for a year (1909-10), followed by Australia (1910-1912) and New Zealand (1912), before parting ways in early-1913. During their Australasian tour Armstrong and Verne secured work with such leading firms, including James Brennan, Harry Rickards, William Anderson and the Fullers.

1: Australian-born comedienne Priscilla Verne had previously been married to Charles Hugo. She became a big star with Hugo’s Buffalo Minstrels during the 1880s and maintained her celebrity status with Harry Rickards in the 1890s. She left Australia for the USA ca. 1901.
2: Tommy Armstrong established a new partnership with Mabs Howarth soon after dissolving the Armstrong and Verne act.



aka Thomas Arnold / Tommy Arnold

Comedian, dancer, patterologist, actor, theatre manager, company general manager.

Chic Arnold and Charles Norman worked a popular song, patter and dance act during the early 1920s. After going their separate ways in 1925 Arnold moved Britain. He and Norman revived their act there in 1930, and in 1932 came back to Australia for Ernest C. Rolls. After two years in pantomime and revue Arnold returned to performing as a solo stage and radio entertainer. He was also involved in several films in the 1930s (as assistant director or actor) and after moving to Adelaide in 1938 worked as a voice recorder, photographer, community singing leader, and as General Manager of Harry Wren Theatres Ltd (1946-).

  • See also Arnold and Norman [below]
Arnold’s film credits include: Charles Chauvel’s Heritage (1934, as assistant director), and A.R. Harwood’s Show Business (1938, as actor).



(1920-25, 1930-33) Specialty song and dance/ comedy patter

Chic Arnold and Charles Norman (“the Gentlemen Wags”) worked for Harry Clay and the Fullers. They split in 1925 but reformed in London ca. 1930. After several years in Britain and Australia they again dissolved the act.  Norman later became a high profile musical actor and producer, while Arnold continues to work as a performer into the 1940s before securing a general manager position with Harry Wren Theatres in Adelaide.



(ca. 1907-1919) Acrobatic, tumbling and contortion act.

Jack Arteen and his sister Edie began staging their “sensational” comedy turn prior to 1909 and over the course of the 1910s secured engagements around Australia with such firms such as Marino Lucas (Tasmania), T.A. Shafto (Perth), Dix-Baker (Newcastle), Fullers’ Theatres, Birch and Carroll, Harry Clay and the Tivoli circuit. By 1916 the act had expanded to include Jessie “the Human Dog” (aka “the Educational Dog”). The original Arteens partnership ended in 1918 when Jack and Edie set up a teaching studio in the Sydney suburb of Newtown.

  • See also: Jack Arteen [below] • The Arteens (2) [below]



Arteens 2 [AV 16 Apr. 1920](1918-ca. 1924) Acrobatic, tumbling, balancing, and ball-punching act.

In 1918, the same year he set up his Sydney studio, Jack Arteen put together a new Arteens act with daughter Maudie and a student Daphne Hill (the girls were also members of the Six Hintons ca. 1919). Confusingly, reviews and photographs published in 1919 indicate that line-up (still a juvenile act) comprised Edie (not Jack’s sister), Little Daphne and Jessie. In 1920 this became Edie, Daphne and Little Olga (“the only scientific child ball-puncher in the world”). It is unclear if Edie and Maudie were the same or different people. The Arteens’ last known performances were in 1924.

  • See also: The Arteens [1] [below]
Image: The Arteens from 1918 (Jack, Maudie and Little Daphne). Source:  Australian Variety (Sydney) 16 Apr. 1920, n. pag.



Acrobat, tumbler, teacher, writer, director.

One of Australia’s finest acrobats of the early 1900s, Jack Arteen toured Australia with his sister Edie up until the late 1910s. In 1918, around the same time he set up a teaching studio in the Sydney suburb of Newtown, Arteen was publicly named in a divorce case as having committed “misconduct” with the wife of serving soldier. The following year Harry Clay engaged him to write and co-direct a Christmas/holiday pantomime for his Sydney suburban circuit. Titled The Golden Butterfly, the cast featured both Arteen and his juvenile pupils. Little is known of his career after 1920.

  • See also: The Arteens [1 & 2] [above]



(aka Hilda Attenborough)

British-born entertainer, actress, comedian, soubrette.

Attenboro, Hilda [BWN 9 Sept 1927, 3]Hilda Attenboro was came to Australia in 1915 under contract to George Marlow. The following year she was named as ‘the other woman,” when British comedian Dan Thomas‘ was sued for divorce. Attenboro and Thomas travelled to South Africa in 1917, with Attenboro appearing in dramatic productions and three films. She returned to the Australasian region in 1921 with new partner Claude Dampier, working as a vaudeville duo, revusical comedians and in film. After they split up in 1922 Attenboro remained in the region until at 1935 appearing in variety, drama and on radio.

Image: Burrowa News (NSW) 9 Sept. 1927, 3.



australian-sapphires-ss-19-mar-1916-15(1916-1917) Song, dance and comedy act.

Lily Rockley and Olga Pennington teamed up sometime around February or March 1916 while working for Fullers’ Theatres. Their act appears to have been specially conceived by the company for the American market. Indeed the Australian Sapphires’ only recorded Australian engage- ments were billed as a brief “farewell” season at the National Theatre Sydney in March. Sydney’s Sun newspaper further records that “the Fuller management [was] going out of [its] way to facilitate the girls’ career in the United States” (“Through the Theatres.” 19 Mar. 1916, 15). Their American debut was undertaken in Hawaii at the National Theater, Honolulu, beginning 12 April. The two entertainers are believed to have gone their separate ways by early1917 (or possibly in late-1916).

1: The Honolulu Star-Bulletin records that Rockley and Pennington were to travel to New York at the conclusion of their Hawaii contract. This is yet to be confirmed. The same article also notes that the pair had come with the reputation of possessing a high-class turn (11 Apr. 1916, 10).
2: The partnership reportedly dissolved when Pennington decided to get married and subsequently returned to Australia. Rockley remained in the USA to tour the vaudeville circuits as a solo act, and eventually settled there permanently.
Image source: Sun (Sydney) 19 Mar. 1916, 15.



(1916-1917) Comedy, song and dance and patter. [Doris Baker, Bert Corrie and Joe Verne]

Austral Trio 1 [AV 13 Dec. 1916]Doris Baker and her husband Bert Corrie joined forces with Joe Verne in 1916 to form the Austral Trio. Billed as “harmonisers and specialty dancers, the trio’s first known engagement was in Broken Hill in May 1916 where they presented a show that also included “seven metropolitan artists.” Over the next ten months the trio played engagements with the Fullers (Bijou Theatre, Melbourne; and Princess Theatre, Sydney), Harry Clay‘s New South Wales circuit, and the Empire Comedy Co (South-west NSW). Among their last known engagements were as a support to a boxing programme at the Sydney Stadium in January 1917 with Reg. L. “Snowy” Baker’s Patriotic Carnival at the same venue in March.

Image source: Australian Variety (Sydney) 13 Dec. 1916, n. pag.



aka Austral Salon Trio

Austral Trio 2 [DNP 5 Feb. 1931, 7](1930-1932) Song and dance act. [Muriel O’Mally, Ann Luciano and Dorothy Benbow.]

This Australia Trio performed live on radio as the Austral Salon Trio between April and July 1930 before securing an engagement with Richard White and Clem Dawe’s Midnight Frolics (Theatre Royal, Perth) in December. They remained with the Frolics in Western Australia until May 1931 then travelled to Adelaide, and later to Melbourne as members of Edgely and Dawe‘s Musical Comedy Co. During this period they were also heard regularly on radio. After a brief break, during which time the trio played cinemas and other venues (mostly in Sydney), they rejoined a new Midnight Frolics in Newcastle in December. The trio’s last known performances were during the company’s 1932 season in Brisbane (ca. April).

1: The Austral Salon Trio radio broadcasts were relayed throughout Australia from 2BL Sydney, with the trio performing a repertoire of classical and popular instrumentals and vocal numbers.
2: Among the various engagements secured by the Austral Trio in 1931 was the a vaudeville show produced by leading Sydney department store, Anthony Horderns at its Happiness Theatre in November.
Image source: Daily News (Perth) 5 Feb. 1931, 7


NB: Neither of the above Austral Trios was connected with several classical music ensembles active from the 1920s and 1930s. One, known as Austral Artists Trio, comprised Ella McKenzie (piano), Warwick McKenzie (violin) and J. Alexander Browne (baritone). It was active during the early-1920s. The third known Austral Trio, comprising Daisy Richards (violin), A. Sverjensky (piano) and J. Van der Klie (cello) was active ca. 1927-1930. A fourth Austral Trio (Misses L. Howden, Lal Kuring and A. M. Kuring) is recorded as playing concerts and charity events in Melbounre ca. 1928; while Perth was home to a fifth Austral Trio in the early to mid-1930s. That vocal ensemble comprised Desma Eastmon (soprano), Mercia Eastmon (contralto) and Phyllis Simpson (mezzo-contralto). Miss Ivy Stevenson was their accompanist.


Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies.
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Published on February 3, 2011 at 12:11 am  Comments Off on Practitioners [A]