Gertrude Bagnall was my grandmother.
Born on 2nd August 1890 to Alfred and Elizabeth Bagnall, she stood 5 feet and 3.5 inches tall, had brown/grey eyes and dark brown hair.
As a young girl, Gertrude went to Thornhill Road school, Rotherham, where at the age of 12 years, she produced the needlework booklet you see here.
Gertrude was very musical and learnt to play the piano, often accompanying her younger sister, Hilda, in her singing practice. She was also very keen on skating, and in her late teens won a skating competition and was presented with an EPNS coffee set.
A religious girl, Gertrude was actively pursued by a young man interested in being a cleric, but she turned him down when he asked her to marry him, more interested in having fun.
In 1913, she met Thomas Victor John King, a music hall acrobat 3 years her senior, who was appearing at a local theatre. The attraction was instant, and they fell in love. Gertrude became pregnant in 1915, and Thomas was unsure whether they should marry, as his career was in full flow, and he felt that it was unfair to have a wife and child in tow, travelling all over the country. After a long conversation with his friend, the famous magician Chung Ling Soo, he decided they should marry, and a service took place in October 1915 at St John’s Masbrough, Rev J H Poole, vicar of Northfield officiating. Shortly after the service, they left for Kent en route for Paris where the honeymoon was to be spent, mainly because of a booking Thomas had received for his acrobatic act in that city.
The couple moved in temporarily with relatives, Irene (my mother) was born in April 1916.
Gertrude played the piano at cinemas for the silent films of the day, and Thomas continued to tour in Britain and in Europe with his act Victor and George, acting also as a part-time physical education instructor with the Navy.
A diary kept by Gertrude of Thomas’s bookings for 1917-20 shows a full schedule of bookings during 1917 with only 5 days off during the year. Bookings ranged from London Palladium and areas around the capital including Woolwich Empire, to Glasgow Empire, Swansea, London Hippodrome, Newport, Southend, Portsmouth, Brighton, Blackpool, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Leeds and on again to Paris in November for a 4 day booking. Because of Navy service, Thomas only worked January – March 1918 and September to November, starting his bookings again in April 1919 with Swansea. His last recorded booking was over the Christmas period in 1920 at Islington.
At the retirement of Gertrude’s mother from the Carter’s Rest in 1920, the couple took over and became licencees.
During the following years, Gertrude and Thomas kept several public houses, moving from the Carter’s Rest to The Sutton in Sheffield, a notoriously rough pub, home at the time to The Moody gang, then onto The Globe in Derby, to The Boot at Grendon, Warwickshire, to The Weddington in Nuneaton, Warwickshire and finally the Black Boy in Leicester. Most of these public houses belonged to the Bass chain, and the couple built rooms which were converted into little theatres, where Thomas continued to do his act, incorporating magic (he was a member of the Magic Circle), employing, amongst others well known names of the time like comedian Sandy Powell and his mother who ran a puppet show for children. Thomas continued to have close contact with his former music hall pals and many stayed with the couple in their pubs when on tour.
On retirement in the 1950s, the couple took a house in Leicester, converting the second and third floors into flats, which they let out, living themselves on the ground floor, as Gertrude suffered badly from arthritis.
Gertrude died in Leicester in September 1966 of a heart attack, 2 months before Thomas died of prostate cancer.