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108 posts categorized "Leisure"

16 May 2019

Celebrating King Edward VIII’s Birthday at the Bahrain Political Agency

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On 23 June 1936 the Bahrain Political Agency held an official ceremony in celebration of King Edward VIII’s birthday. Announcing it as an official holiday, the Agency made a series of arrangements to mark the occasion. It is clear that the Agency was keen to make the occasion as inclusive and organised as it could be. Arabic invitation cards were ordered from the Times Press Limited at Baghdad and Basra.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 1IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 30

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 2IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 32

The Agency sent personal invitations to members of the Bahrain Government including Shaikhs ‘Abdullah bin ‘Isa and Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 3IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 37

Messrs Jashanmal (now Jashanmal Department Stores, Bahrain) supplied the Agency with refreshments including Nice biscuits, sherbet, chocolate, crystallised cherries, and Mackintosh toffees. Whereas Messrs Ashraf Brothers (now Ashrafs W.L.L.) supplied coffee, rose water, nuts and plates.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 4IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 43 
 

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 5IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 44

To ensure everyone’s loyalty to the British Crown, the Agency invited representatives of various ethnic and religious communities living in Bahrain including Arabs, Persians, Hindu and Jewish. Indeed this could also display a British attempt to show an inclusive policy towards everyone in Bahrain.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 6IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 60

A list of names was circulated among the invitees. In turn, each invitee left a note near his name either to confirm or apologise. In some cases, certain individuals sent letters of apology, like the one sent by Mr ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-Qusaibi.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 7IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 48

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 8IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 45

On the day, the Agency received its special guests by placing a guard of honour to wait for them at the door. After serving coffee and other refreshments, a number of invitees read out their letters of congratulation. The assistants of the heads of the Manama and Muharraq Municipalities read out the letters on behalf of their municipalities.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 9IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 54

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 10IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 55

Others read out their letters on behalf of their companies or communities. These include Mullah Hasan bin al-Shaikh al-Majed, representing the Arab Bahrainis; Ghanshamdas Dhamanmal Isardas, representing the Hindu; and Mir Daoud Rouben, representing the Jewish community in Bahrain.
 

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 11IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 58

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 12IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 59

Further, both Haji Abdun Nabi Bushehri, representing the Iranian Shi‘a community; and Haji Muhammad Tayeb Khunji, representing the Iranian Sunni community read out their tabriknameh [congratulation letters] in Persian.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 13IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 56

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 14IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 57

The language used in these letters reflected the purpose of the invitation in the first place. The letters were in praise of the British Empire, and all wishing King Edward VIII to live long and be prosperous. The similarity of their wordings display nothing but loyalty to the British Crown. Ironically, only six months after the occasion, Edward VIII abdicated on 11 December 1936 and soon his loyalty to the British Crown became a matter of dispute among many.

Ula Zeir
Content Specialist/ Arabic Language
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership Programme

Further reading
IOR/R/15/2/1663 'File 20/1- Vol: III Ceremonial and Celebrations: New Year's and King's Birthday's Celebrations.'
Edward VIII

01 April 2019

April Fool’s Day at the zoo

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The first of April was not a day that the staff of zoos around Britain used to look forward to with any pleasure.  A popular April Fool’s Day trick was to leave a note for a colleague in an office or factory giving the telephone number of the local zoo with the instruction to ask for one of these people -

Mr C Lyon
Mr P Cock
Mr G Raff
Miss Ella Fant
Mr Wolf.

Sea-lion-clipart-afd-107834Sea Lion via Clipart

So many calls were made to Dudley Zoo on the morning of 1 April 1965 that it took three members of the office staff to cope.  The jammed switchboard was closed down at 10.45 until 14.00. One unwitting caller was connected when they asked for Mr Mole.   They were put through to Mr Moule in the catering department.

London Zoo became tired of the joke.  At one time staff would answer dozens of requests to speak to Mr Lyon by repeating wearily: ‘This is the Zoological Society.  All our lions are in cages and it is April 1 today’.  The  Primrose telephone exchange then began to help by asking questions to discover whether the call was bona fide before putting it through to the Zoo. 
 
In 1866 London Zoo was the victim of an April Fool hoax when 300 people arrived with fake tickets, lured by a bargain price and the promise of seeing a parade of lions, tigers, bears and leopards.  You can read the full story here.

Sunderland Daily Echo wrote in 1932: ‘April first is the hoaxer’s holiday when all the old “chestnuts” can be tried out again with impunity’.  So beware any notes left for you this morning and double check before you make any phone calls! 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

 

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive: for example Daily Herald 1 April 1930; Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette 1 April 1932; Birmingham Daily Post 2 April 1965.

 

19 March 2019

Marie Corelli: Superstar Author of the Victorian Era

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Of all the authors of the Victorian era, Marie Corelli (1855-1924) is not easily recalled, names such as Tennyson, Dickens, the Brontës and Mary Shelley are more likely to come to mind.  She has slipped into obscurity over the years.  Yet intriguingly, Corelli was one of the most popular authors of her time.  She was a bestselling author and an individual whose life contained many of the hallmarks of contemporary celebrity: fame, fortune and famous friends.

Picture 1Postcard depicting popular Victorian author Marie Corelli Wikimedia Commons

Evidence of the scale of her popularity is illustrated in the British Library’s Manuscript Collections.  There are a number of her publishing agreements in the archive of Marie Corelli’s publisher, Richard Bentley (Add MS 46560-46682).  One of these is the publishing agreement for Corelli’s book Wormwood (published only a few years into her literary career) which shows that she was offered a total of £800 for this title.  In today’s money this would be an advance of over £65,000, quite a lot of money for any author.  Such a sum shows just how much confidence Bentley had in Corelli.  He evidently believed that the investment would be rewarded.

Picture 2Add MS 46623, f.327

Corelli's novels combined a writing style that was melodramatic and florid.  Her interest in mysticism and spiritualism could lead to her characters expressing bizarre abilities to dematerialise and time-travel.  On top of this she had a tendency to moralise and bemoan contemporary society.  This made her novels rather liable to ridicule by critics.  However it does not seem to have affected her sales; according to the Bentley’s accounts, Corelli made over £900 in royalties alone in 1893, and £1000 in 1894.

Picture 3Add MS 46562, f.15

Aside from considerable sales, the stardom of Corelli is further illustrated by a number of unlikely, but influential fans, one being Oscar Wilde who stated that she told of ‘marvellous things in a marvellous way’.  She was also friends with Ellen Terry, the leading Shakespearean actress.  Another fan was the Prime Minister, William Galdstone.  Gladstone was such a fan that he popped around unannounced to meet Corelli.  To her horror, she was out at the time and was dreadfully disappointed to have missed one of the ‘profound thinkers and sage of the century’.

Picture 4Add MS 44507, f.3

Corelli’s extroverted personality and her fame meant she was scrutinized more closely than most.  She often cut a contradictory figure.   She railed against marriage in her article 'The Modern Marriage Market', feeling that women too often were sold and traded like property, and yet she was an avid anti-suffragette.  She appealed for charity on behalf of hospitals during the First World War, but was convicted of hoarding food against regulation.  She could be fleeting with friends, but she lived solely with one woman, Bertha Vyver, for 40 years, dedicating her books to her and leaving her everything in her will.

Picture 5The dedication to Bertha in Thelma, 1888

A century after her death, Marie Corelli’s work is largely forgotten.  Her florid style and sentimentality became unfashionable as a new generation of modernist writers took hold of the literary lime-light.  For most of her lifetime, however, Corelli’s writing brought her great success, so much so that that most of her fellow Victorians would have known her name.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
The Bentley Papers, Add MS 46560-46682, British Library
Bigland, E. Marie Corelli: The Woman and the Legend, (London: Jarrolds Publishers, 1953)
Corelli, M and Others. The Modern Marriage Market, (London : Hutchinson & Co, 1898)
Corelli, M. Thelma: A New Edition, (London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1888)
The National Archives, Currency Converter

 

15 January 2019

Cats and games of forfeit

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Did you play any board or parlour games with friends or family over the festive period?  In our Cats on the Page exhibition we feature a small pamphlet entitled The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands.

Pretty  playful  tortoise-shell catThe Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands (London, 1817) © British Library Board

Facing this title-page there is an image of a group of children sitting round the (slightly over-performing) fire with their cat - apparently about to begin playing the game.  The publisher, John Marshall, seized this opportunity to promote two more of his games, namely The Hopping, prating, chatt’ring magpie and The Frisking, barking, lady’s lap-dog which he also published in 1816-17.

 
Pretty playful catThe Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat (London, 1817) © British Library Board

Other titles produced around the same time include The Noble, prancing, cantering horse, also printed by Marshall, and The Pretty, young, playful, innocent lamb, printed for J. and E. Wallis.  (There were also similar games based on the rhyme The House that Jack built and derivatives such as The Barn that Tom built and The Mill that Charles built!).

Several are subtitled ‘a new [entertaining] game of questions and commands’ and essentially they are cumulative memory games with forfeits.  Generally someone is appointed Treasurer and passes a small item such as a thimble to the first player with the command “Take this”.  The first player asks “What’s this?” and the Treasurer replies with the first section of the rhyme (e.g. “The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat…” ).  The first, and subsequent players, then repeat these actions until the thimble returns to the Treasurer.  It is then passed round again with the addition of the second section of the rhyme and so on until the entire, lengthy, rhyme has to be memorised and repeated by each player.  Should a player make a mistake or forget the rhyme a forfeit has to be paid to the Treasurer.  At the end of the game, another player is appointed to devise appropriate tasks for the retrieval of the forfeits – tasks might include solving a riddle, spelling a long, nonsensical word or being tickled.      

There seems to have been a brief flurry of these titles from about 1815 to around 1830.  Though Marshall was not the only publisher of such works he does seem to have made these games a speciality.  Presumably they were profitable since his widow subsequently assigned some of the titles to David Carvalho who continued to print them until around 1830. 

However their origin appears to have been earlier.  As you can see, there was a formula to the titles, which seems to have drawn on The Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog.  This is believed to have been first recorded in print around 1760 in The Top book of all, for little masters and misses as ‘The play of the wide-mouth waddling frog, to amuse the mind, and exercise the memory’.  It is found again, with instructions, in Mirth without mischief around 1800 and we have a copy of the game based on the rhyme published by A.K. Newman & Co. around 1825.  A version of the verses was also illustrated by Walter Crane in the late 19th century.

Gaping wide-mouthed waddling frogThe Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog (London, ca. 1825) © British Library Board

Many of the catalogue records relating to the booklets published in the early 19th century by Marshall suggest that the illustrations were by Isaac Robert Cruikshank.  We shall be looking into stories about his early life in our next post.

Alison Bailey
Lead Curator, Printed Heritage Collections 1901-2000

Further reading:
The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands. Embellished with fourteen coloured engravings. London: Printed and sold by John Marshall, 1817. C.194.a.968.
The Top book of all, for little masters and misses. London: sold only at R. Baldwin's, and S. Crowder's, and at Benj. Collins's, Salisbury, [1760?]. Ch.760/5.(1.). Pages 15-31.
Mirth without mischief. London: printed by J. Davenport, for C. Sheppard, [1800?]. Ch.780/110. Pages [17]-33.
The Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog: a new and entertaining game of questions and commands. With proper directions for playing the game and crying the forfeits. Embellished with fifteen coloured engravings. London: A.K. Newman & Co., [ca. 1825] C.194.a.842.
The Oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes. Edited by Iona and Peter Opie. New ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.  YK.1997.a.6456.
Brian Alderson and Felix de Marez Oyens, Be merry and wise: origins of children's book publishing in England, 1650-1850. London: British Library, 2006. LC.31.b.2656.

Cats on the Page exhibition supported by

AFI standard logos-02

 

03 January 2019

The Great War Fund Fete

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On 13 January 1941 a War Fund Fete was held at Government House, Madras.  As well as raising money for the Madras War Fund, the fete was also intended as a propaganda event.

Fete programme coverIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2 f 1 Front cover of the War Fund Fete programme 

It was a grand affair with the programme featuring 91 entries for stalls, games, entertainments and food and drink establishments, along with more practical facilities including cloakrooms and parcel stores, lost property and medical stations.  Currency for the fete was in coupons and the public had to purchase books of coupons in order to make purchases or enjoy the entertainments on offer.

One local newspaper on the day of the fete described Government House as having been 'transformed into a pleasureland' for that night's merrymaking.  According to the Madras Mail of 14 January 1941, the fete was opened when 'Tough cowboys burst open the gates at Government House yesterday and their tempestuous entrance made it possible for the public to enter at last'.

Many of the stalls were similar to those featured at fetes nowadays with lucky dips, raffles, coconut shy’s, and bagatelle.  Others however had more unusual titles, including ‘Bunty pulls the strings’ and ‘Breaking up the happy home’ (similar to today’s crockery smash stalls).  There were also elephant rides, several magic gardens and even a Chinese Laundry!  One of the most popular stalls at the Fete was that of Woolworth’s.  One local newspaper the following day observed:
'Equally crowded was the excellent “Woolworth” stall, where the most effective household oddments, artfully and thriftily contrived, were sold for a song'.

Entertainment at the fete included two bandstands and a theatre which featured dance groups and musicians as well as plays.  The performances on show included the Tamil comedy The Sub-Assistant Magistrate of Sultanpet and the Tamil play The Pongal Feast.

Food and drink were also in abundance with American style diners and saloons, coffee and refreshment stalls and a Toc H Bar.  For those looking for a full evening’s entertainment there was a Tocaitchaski bar with its own orchestra, a banqueting hall with dancing from 9pm to 2am (evening dress was optional) and a cabaret dinner, promenade and bar with the cabaret performance at 9pm.

The Mail 14 Jan 1941India Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2, f 23 Front page of The Mail 14 January 1941 showing the crowds surging into the fete

According to the newspaper reports people attended the fete in their thousands: 'In they surged, school boys and girls, scores of excited men and women, mothers with babies and with chattering kiddies clinging to available fingers, happy young things on the arms of their beaux, while burnished cars and buses squeezed through as well'.

In a letter written on 16 January 1941 Sir Arthur Hope, the Governor of Madras, congratulated Captain Thomas William Barnard, Honorary Secretary to the Fete’s organising committee, on the wonderful success of the fete and also commented that 'Apart from the financial result, it was a great piece of propoganda [sic] which will have its effect'.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2 - The Great Fete at Government House Grounds Madras 13 January 1941
- Includes press cuttings from The Mail (formerly known as The Madras Mail) 14 January 1941

 

19 December 2018

Christmas bound

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'Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.' Sound advice from American magazine editor Lenore Hershey (1919-1997).

Naughty Boys and Girls11526.f.1. 19c green paper over boards on Naughty Boys and Girls [1852].

Those of us born ‘non digital’ would have regularly received a festive book or two; an annual, collections of fairy tales, ghost stories or Christmas verse.  Whatever the subject, the bindings were invariably attractive. Mass production techniques developed in the 19th century meant that books once hand-bound in leather were now available in inexpensive cloth or paper covers.  The emerging middle classes in Victorian England had money to spare for the purchase of extras, notably books, and if they were instructional as well as aesthetically appealing, all the better.  Artists were employed to decorate the bindings and they often ‘advertised’ by incorporating their initials into their designs.  Notable were John Leighton, also Albert Henry Warren, William Harry Rogers and William Ralston.  Examples of their work are below.

Naturally, Christmas would not be Christmas without Charles Dickens, particularly as many of his stories were set in the festive season.  Their popularity was a money-spinner for author and publishers alike.

Dickens - Christmas Stories12623.g.25. Christmas Stories from the Household Words. Conducted by Charles Dickens. [The extra Christmas numbers for 1850-1858.]

Victorian publishers exploited this lucrative new market to tailor books to the tastes of children, although the two depicted in the song book below seem somewhat depressed at the prospect!

 Stories for the Little Ones11602.cc.30. Gold blocked cloth binding designed by William Ralston.  Note the initials WR towards the centre of the tail edge.

Some children’s picture books retained a didactic flavour.  The upper cover of Simple Hans and other funny pictures and stories proclaimed 'Oh children, children come and see / This funny picture-book for you and me/ Bought by our Mama dear! / So that we may grow good and wise / And ‘neath a merry laugh’s disguise/ Learn naughty ways to fear'.

Other themes were more fun, ranging from the snowy weather to seasonal tales and traditional toys.

Jack Frost & Betty Snow
12807.b.53. Gold blocked cloth binding designed by John Leighton.

King Nut Cracker12806.e.12. Paper binding over boards on King Nutcracker, 1854.

Tales of the Toys12807.ee.35.  Gold blocked cloth binding designed by Albert Henry Warren on Tales of the Toys, 1869 and bound by Bone and son of London.

Books could also promote sociability and enhance family life.  After the grand Christmas dinner, chapters containing stories, jokes, nonsense verse and other favourites could be read aloud and enjoyed by everyone.
 

Hunting of the SnarkW14/4782.  Gold blocked cloth binding on Lewis Caroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, 1876.


Bushel of MerrythoughtsRB.31.a.43. Paper binding over boards on A bushel of merry-thoughts, 1868 designed by William Harry Rogers (his intertwined initials are beneath the red pennant to the left).

Serious-minded relatives or godparents who held themselves responsible for the spiritual or moral well-being of their young kinsfolk, sometimes felt it appropriate to give them devotional or educational works.  One can only hope that they were not quizzed on the contents!

Five spinesSpines from gold blocked cloth bindings (taken from the Library’s online image databse of bookbindings).

Annuals were popular, particularly as gifts to older children who could be trusted to read quietly to themselves (perhaps whilst the adults had an after dinner nap).

Peter Parley's AnnualPP.6750. Gold blocked publisher’s cloth binding on an 1860 annual (note the designer’s signature MAC below the date). This was a gift from father to son as indicated by the manuscript notes inside: "Dec. 21st 1859. To My Dear Son Denis. A Reward for attention to his studies. D H Donnell".

 

London Out of Town12352.a.3. Detail from the paper cover of London out of town.  The price was one shilling.

In 1844, John Leighton wrote and illustrated the amusing London out of town. Or the adventures of the Browns at the sea side.  It was one of the earliest comic books and appealed to old and young alike.

Merry Christmas and merry reading!

Christmas Rhymes and New Year's Chimes11649.f.22. Blocked in colours on cloth. Mary D Brine, [Christmas Rhymes and New Year's Chimes ... Illustrated.] [1890] 

P. J. M. Marks
Curator, Bookbindings. Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Edmund M. B. King, Victorian Decorated Trade Bindings, 1830-1880: A Descriptive Bibliography. The British Library and Oak Knoll Press, 2003.
The Victorian Web

With thanks to Gillian Ridgley.

 

01 November 2018

Souling on All Hallows’ Day

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On the evening of Saturday 1 November 1873, a group of young men were drinking in the Blue Cap public house at Sandiway Head, Cheshire.  They could not have foreseen the dramatic turn of events that was about to unfold.

It was All Hallows’ Day.  In Cheshire there was a custom known as souling when groups would go about singing outside houses, receiving gifts of money or food.  Our young men left the Blue Cap about 11pm and began souling. 

Corbet  Henry ReginaldHenry Reginald Corbet by Sir Leslie Ward published in Vanity Fair 20 October 1883 © National Portrait Gallery NPG D44143

At about 11.30pm they arrived at at Dale Ford, the house used as a hunting lodge by Henry Reginald Corbet, a Shropshire magistrate and master of the Cheshire Hounds.  They sang The gentlemen of England and rang the bell.  As nobody answered, they started another song, Now pray we for our country.  The bell was rung again.  There was movement inside, then Corbet and a number of others rushed out. Corbet was holding a shotgun.  Someone shouted ‘Go at them!’ and two of the soulers were knocked over, one suffering a broken tooth.  Thomas Hodgkinson protested that they were doing no harm, only souling.

The soulers made off down the long drive of the house as quickly as they could.  Corbet followed, telling them to stop.  He fired his gun, hitting John Tomlinson in the legs.  Some of the soulers stopped and returned with Corbet and Tomlinson to the house.  Their names were taken before they were allowed to leave. 

When Tomlinson arrived home, nineteen shots were found in his left calf and two in the right.  When Corbet heard about this, he visited Tomlinson, gave instructions for his own doctor to attend, and gave him £25.  However that was not the end of the matter.  Corbet was brought before magistrates, charged with unlawful and malicious wounding, grievous bodily harm, and common assault.

The trial attracted a good deal of interest and proceedings lasted seven and a half hours.  Several of the young soulers gave evidence.  In his defence, Corbet said that he had recently dismissed some stable hands who had threatened him.  When he heard noises he thought they had returned.  He had never heard of the custom of souling.  Although he admitted firing the gun, he said he did not take aim and only meant to frighten the visitors.

The jury decided their verdict in the space of twenty minutes – Corbet was found guilty of common assault.  This was greeted with a ripple of applause.  Mr Addison for the prosecution stated that he did not wish to press hard on a gentleman in Mr Corbet’s position.  The act for which he was convicted was a hasty one provoked by what he perceived to be howling outside his door.  The unpleasantness of having to stand in the dock was already a considerable punishment.

The magistrates decided that Corbet should pay a fine of £100, and enter into a recognisance of good behaviour for twelve months.  The case attracted considerable press coverage.  Some newspapers expressed the belief that Corbet had got off lightly: the Nottingham Journal contrasted the case with a man sent to prison for six weeks for pointing his gun at a pheasant.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive, for example Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press 15 November 1873, Cheshire Observer 29 November 1873, Nottingham Journal 2 December 1873.

 

06 September 2018

Murray the Escapologist

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It is not unusual when looking through archives to find something unexpected.  This entertaining leaflet for Murray the Australian Escapologist was among the private papers of Sir John Gilbert Laithwaite, Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India from 1936 to 1943.  It was in a file of brochures and pamphlets he had collected on his various tours of India.

F138-57 Murray the EscapologistIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F138/57


Born in 1901 in Melbourne with the exhausting full name of Leo Norman Maurien Murray Stuart Carrington Walters, he not surprisingly shortened it for his stage act to Murray the Escapologist.  His interest in magic and escapes had been kindled as a boy by seeing other magicians, including the famous Houdini.  Having saved for a pair of handcuffs, he practised escapes by handcuffing himself to his bed every night so that he could not go to sleep until he had freed himself. 

Murray the Escapologist 3Leeds Mercury, 24 December 1926 British Newspaper Archive

Murray worked hard and travelled the world building up his act.  He often worked as a crew member on ships during the day, and performed his act in the evening wherever the ship docked.  In this way he travelled to America, Singapore, India, and South America, before reaching Europe, arriving in England in the mid-1920s.

Murray the Escapologist 2Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 13 January 1937 British Newspaper Archive

Some of his stunts sound particularly hair-raising, such as hanging upside down in a strait-jacket from the roof of the Palace Theatre Blackpool, being thrown out of an airplane over the Bristol Channel while locked inside a mailbag, being locked in a safe and thrown into the sea, or being manacled and thrown into the lions’ den at Olympia.  In 1926, he told a correspondent of the Dundee Courier that the feat he was most proud of was being secured to the track of the Peking-Shanghai Railway ten minutes before the Shanghai Express was due to leave the station.  He escaped when the train was only 100 yards away.  Such acts did not always win approval from the authorities. In Japan the police refused to allow him to give a public performance because he would set a bad example. 

In 1939, Murray was touring Germany, and performed at the Wintergarten Theatre in Berlin where he entertained Adolf Hitler.  On the outbreak of war, he had to quickly flee the country leaving his props and costumes behind in order to avoid being interned.  As the leaflet shows, this experience became a part of his subsequent act.  To build up his show again, he travelled to India where he performed successfully in Bombay.  In India, he performed with Madam Gillian, the Woman with the X-Ray Eyes, who had the “uncanny ability of rendering startling and truthful character analysis through her magnetic eyes”.

Murray the EscapologistBirmingham Mail, 13 January 1939 British Newspaper Archive

Murray continued to amaze audiences until his retirement in 1954, when opened a magic shop in Blackpool called Murray’s Magic Mart, which he ran until a couple of years before his death in 1989.

 John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further reading:
Miscellaneous booklets and pamphlets on monuments in India, collected by Sir J G Laithwaite, during his tours of India, 1937-1943 [Reference Mss Eur F138/57]

David O’Connor, “The Magic of Murray” on the ‘Magic for Kids’ website, 24 November 2015

Barry McCann blog post Magic Murray, Blackpool Museum Project 

Article in the Dundee Courier, Wednesday 29 December 1926; Robert E Vivian, article in the Evening Despatch, Wednesday 18 January 1939