Colourful lives of our city-based gaiety girls; MERSEYSIDE TALES.
Byline: Stephen Guy
HE young man was so smitten by the beautiful musical theatre star that he watched her from the front row every performance.
TRonald McAndrew, 24-year-old son of a wealthy Liverpool shipping merchant, was entranced by Elsie Kaye appearing in The Gay Gordons at Blackpool.
It was August 1908 and the young actress was equally impressed by Ronald. He followed her on the next stage of the tour to Dublin.
He had a ticket for the stalls for each performance of the fortnight's run. After a few days, Elsie accepted his proposal of marriage and agreed that the wedding take place immediately.
The newly-engaged couple drove around trying to find someone to marry them. This proved impossible so they eloped to London on the mail boat.
Next day the theatre company received a telegram from Elsie: "Shall not be back. So sorry. Am married."
The couple only had six years of happiness as Ronald was killed in action in 1914.
This is one of the fascinating stories in a new 302-page book called The Female Stars of Musical Theatre in Edwardian England by Christopher Frost (PS50, available from the author on 01284 725430).
Long gone: Shakespeare Thebook focuses on the glittering period when lavish musicals played to packed houses everywhere. The stars - popularly known as Gaiety Girls after the famous London theatre - were huge celebrities.
Mary Merrall (1890-1973) was born Elsie Lloyd in Liverpool, the daughter of William Lloyd and his wife Emily Merrall Tidswell.
Mary was educated in convent schools in Belgium in London. She appeared in My Mimosa Maid and King of Cadonia, married a barrister then resumed her career. Liverpool-born Clarice Lockstone made her West End debut in 1899 in the musical fairy play The Snow Man.
Theatre After appearing in Liverpool concerts, she played in many touring shows including The Dairymaids and Little Miss Ragtime.
Born in Brazil, red-haired Thelma Raye (real name Thelma Bell-Morton) was educated in Liverpool.
She appeared in many shows including The Dashing Little Duke and The Joy-Ride Lady.
Widowed with a young daughter during WWI at just 23, she then married a well-off jeweller.
Her third husband was the famous English actor Ronald Colman. They divorced in 1934 - after that her stationery was always headed 'Mrs Ronald Colman the First.'.
Vanished Liverpool theatres mentioned in the book include the Shakespeare (opened 1888, demolished 1976 after a fire), Royal Hippodrome (later a cinema, pulled down 1984) and the Lyric (destroyed by bombs in WWII).
Another theatre blitzed by WWII bombers was Birkenhead's Argyle. Southport's Opera House burnt down in 1929. The Alexandra in Widnes suffered a similar fate in 1949.
| Stephen Guy is chairman of the historic Lowlands West Derby Community Centre. See www.lowlands.org.uk or 0151 226 5352.
Long gone: Shakespeare Theatre
Left, Elsie Kaye - who eloped; above, Mary Merrall - born Elsie Lloyd in Liverpool
Thelma Raye was educated in Liverpool and later married Hollywood actor Ronald Colman - 'Mrs Colman the First' had been married twice before