Knowing that we’re always on the look out for stories of interesting Heatonians from times past, Allan Robinson of High Heaton has contacted us to tell us about Jack Arthur Elvidge, who some older readers may remember as Rex Hart, ‘The Man with the Monocle’ or ‘The Man with X-ray Eyes’. Allan, who himself has an alias ‘Clogs the Clown’ takes up the story:
‘Rex was born Jack Arthur Elvidge on 6 August 1906 in Byker . But he moved to Heaton at an early age. On census night 1911, he was aged 4 and living at 98 Spencer Street, Heaton with his widowed grandmother and her two sons and two daughters plus a boarder.
Jack was a passionate entertainer. He started his stage career in Whitley Bay at the age of 10. This was followed by a lifetime entertaining his North East audiences as magician, Rex Hart. Rex had excellent manipulative skills and wonderful humour. He was always in demand on the dinner circuit as many of his programmes, that I have show. In busy times he would go from one venue to another carrying his act in a briefcase.
Rex was a founder member of the Newcastle Branch of the Institute of Magicians, an organisation founded in London in 1934. In the 1940s, the Newcastle branch held its meetings in the County Hotel. He later became a member of the Northern and the Newcastle Magic Circle.
Rex married his wife Hilda on the 6 November 1935. The reception was held at the County Hotel, where he used to meet his magical friends. While Hilda never performed herself, she had a very keen interest in magic and gave Rex every encouragement and ensured that his clothes were clean and pressed before every show.
Even during World War 2 as a Sergeant in the Royal Air Force, Rex was in demand, entertaining the airmen. Rex served time in West Africa and was demobbed from the force on 25 December 1945 having been awarded two medals.
Whilst Rex and Hilda never had any children, they had many friends with whom they enjoyed annual holidays camping at Coldingham Bay in the Scottish Borders. The locals also enjoyed their company as even on holiday Rex would give performances.
I first met Rex in the 1980s and, whilst he had retired by then due to ill health, his passion for entertaining never left him and he would accompany me to my own magical shows. We would also meet weekly on a Saturday night at his home, 17 Ivymount Road, where in his front room with Hilda we would discuss and perform magic tricks. It was here that I would learn all about his magic life and hear tales like the time he lent Max Bygraves who was performing on the Empire Theatre in Newcastle, his ventriloquist doll. Amongst my collection of Rex’s items I have a signed photograph that Max gave him as a thank you.’
Rex died on 23 February 1992.
Thank you to Allan alias Clogs the Clown for telling us about Jack / Rex.
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